The Nine Protected Characteristics of The Equality Act 2010

In the UK, it is unlawful to discriminate against anyone based upon the “nine protected characteristics”. These characteristics are as follows:  

Sex. (In UK law, “sex” is seen as binary, so “sex” refers to a woman OR a man). Sex should never be conflated with “gender”.

Religion and Belief. (This includes any religion, or lack of religion. Belief should refer to any religious or philosophical beliefs and also includes a “lack of belief”).

Sexual orientation. (This refers to whether a person’s sexual attraction is exclusively towards the same sex, both sexes or the opposite sex).

Disability. (This refers to physical and/or mental disabilities that have “a substantial or long term effect” and impact a person’s ability to carry out day to day activities).

Race. (This refers to a person’s race, ethnicity, citizenship, colour , nationality, or national origins).


Pregnancy and maternity.(Including breastfeeding mothers.)

Marriage or civil partnership. (Between a “woman or man, or a same-sex union”).

Gender reassignment. (This refers to the process of “transitioning from one sex to another”).

The above nine categories are of equal, importance, non-hierarchical  and are known as “Protected Characteristics”.

Is the Single-Sex Exemption in the Equality Act 2010 legal?

The answer to this is “Yes”.

The Equality Act 2010, is clear that single sex services are legally protected, for a wide range of common and specialist situations.

It however goes on to state that “trans-persons can be excluded from a service where that is justified“, services such as refuges and prisons. However it is still advising that this must be based on “individual case by case” assessment.

This ambiguity needs clarification to avoid abuse and direct discrimination claims being made. Therefore,  there is a need for clear guidance on single-sex services AND the Equality Act regarding people who identify as “transgender“.

Written by: Belstaffie