The Equality Act 2010 covers all forms of discrimination in the workplace, including selection for a job, training, promotion, work practices, dismissal or any other disadvantage such as harassment because of a ‘Protected Characteristic’.

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination because of a Protected Characteristic. Marriage and civil partnership is one of the Protected Characteristics.

What is Marriage and Civil Partnership Discrimination?

Marriage covers any formal union which is legally recognised in the UK as a marriage. Civil partnership is defined as a relationship between two people of the same sex where the partnership has been registered either in the UK or overseas at a British Consulate. Therefore, marriage between a man and a woman and between a same-sex couple are covered. This discrimination occurs when someone is treated in a certain way either because of, or for a reason related to marriage or civil partnership. It can also occur where an employer does something which places you at a disadvantage because of a person’s marriage or civil partnership.

Who is protected?

The Act covers all employment and applies to apprentices, employees and the self-employed working under a contract personally to do work. Ex-employees can also in some circumstances make a claim against a former employer.

Who is liable?

The employer is generally liable for acts of discrimination; however, individual employees may also be liable.

Types of Discrimination

Exceptions: When marriage or civil partnership discrimination may be lawful

In some exceptional circumstances discrimination can be lawful. There might be legitimate occupational requirements.

Bringing a Claim

If you feel you have been discriminated against, you can bring a claim to an Employment Tribunal. Claims must be brought within three months (less one day) of the act complained of subject to any extension of time granted by correct use of ACAS Early Conciliation.

Where discrimination has occurred over a period of time then the claim must be brought within three months (less one day) of the last act in a series of interconnected, linked acts subject to any extension of time granted by correct use of ACAS Early Conciliation.

It’s important in most cases for Claimants to submit a written grievance to their employer complaining of the discrimination. A failure to do so could result in any compensation being reduced by up to 25%. 

Where a Tribunal finds that a claim is well founded, it can order the employer to pay compensation for financial losses and injury to feelings. The Tribunal can also make a recommendation that the employer takes specified steps within a specified time to remove or reduce the adverse effects of the discrimination on the Claimant.

How do I prove my case?

Establishing that discrimination occurred is not straightforward. Sufficient evidence must be provided to enable a Tribunal to conclude it is more likely than not that an employer discriminated against the worker.

There will need to be some factual basis upon which the Tribunal can make its findings. It therefore helps if the claimant can produce any relevant letters or documents. It is useful if the employee makes a note of the key incidents and the dates on which they took place.

If you feel that you may have been discriminated against, why not complete our discrimination questionnaire and we will contact you to discuss further. Alternatively, call us on 0333 016 4239 or email us at

Complete Discrimination Questionnaire