Diversity & Equality

Discrimination is less favourable treatment based on someone's protected characteristic. A protected characteristic is an individual strand of diversity as covered under the Equality Act.

Diversity, Equal Opportunities and Human Rights

The Equality Act 2010 covers 9 protected characteristics.

In relation to both employment the relevant protected characteristics are:


A person has a disability if he or she has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on that person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Gender Reassignment:

A person who is proposing to, or is currently undergoing, or who has undergone a process to change their gender.

Pregnancy and Maternity:

Pregnancy is the condition of being pregnant or expecting a baby. Maternity refers to the period after the birth and is linked to maternity leave in the employment context. In the non-work context, protection against maternity discrimination is for 26 weeks after giving birth and this includes treating a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding.


Refers to a group of people defined by their race, colour and nationality, ethnic or national origins.

Religion or Belief:

Religion includes any religion. It also includes a lack of religion (for instance service users and employees are protected if they do not follow a certain religion). Belief includes religious and philosophical beliefs including lack of belief (e.g. Atheism). Generally, a belief should affect your life choices or the way you live. Sex: Being male or female.

Sexual Orientation:

Defined as a person's sexual attraction towards their own sex (gay or lesbian), the opposite sex (heterosexual) or to both sexes (bisexual).

In relation to employment only, the protected characteristics also cover:


The Equality Act protects people of all ages. However, if different treatment because of age can be justified and is a proportionate means of meeting a legitimate aim, this will not be considered discrimination. Employers are allowed to have a default retirement age of 67 until April 2011. The prohibition on age related discrimination also covers training and education.

Marriage and Civil Partnerships:

In the Equality Act marriage and civil partnership means someone who is legally married or in a civil partnership. Marriage can either be between a man and a woman, or between partners of the same sex. Civil partnership is between partners of the same sex. Single people are not protected.

Key legal principles

Direct discrimination:

This occurs when someone is treated less favourably than another person because of a protected characteristic.

Discrimination by association:

This is a form of direct discrimination and occurs when a person is treated less favourably because they are linked or associated with a person who has a protected characteristic.

Perception based discrimination:

This is a form of direct discrimination and occurs when a person is treated less favourably because others wrongly think they have a protected characteristic and treat them on the basis of such perception.

Indirect discrimination:

Indirect discrimination occurs when there is a rule, a policy or a practice that applies to everyone but particularly disadvantages people who share a protected characteristic. Indirect discrimination can be justified if the rule, policy or practice can be shown to meet a legitimate objective in a fair, balanced and reasonable way, i.e. that it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.


Harassment is unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic, which has the purpose or the effect of violating a persons dignity, or which is hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive.

Deciding what counts as harassment is a matter of reasonableness and people must exercise common sense.

Third Party Harassment:

Applies to age, disability, gender, gender re-assignment, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation. The Equality Act makes employers potentially liable for harassment of your employees by people (third parties) who do are not employed by you, e.g. customers or contract workers.


Victimisation occurs when a person is treated badly because they are making a complaint, or supporting a complaint or are raising a grievance about discrimination, or they are suspected of doing so.

Discrimination arising from disability:

An organisation must not treat a disabled person unfavourably because of something connected to their disability, where they cannot show that what they are doing is objectively justified.

Duty to make reasonable adjustments

Positive action

It is important to recognise that some people with protected characteristics are disadvantaged or under-represented in services and workforces. They may have particular needs linked to protected characteristics or may need additional help or encouragement to ensure they are provided with the same opportunities as others.

The Equality Act recognises that, in order for organisations to ensure equality outcomes are met for disabled people, they may need to consider changing the way in which they deliver services and employ disabled people, for instance by providing extra equipment or removing physical barriers.

The duty to make reasonable adjustments aims to ensure that organisations consider the ways in which they provide services and facilities to disabled people in order to ensure that disabled people can use services and facilities on the same basis as non-disabled people.

This duty is anticipatory. This means organisation should not wait until disabled people want to use their services, instead they should think in advance about what reasonable adjustments disabled people with a range of impairments may reasonably need.

The Equality Act enables organisations to take proportionate steps to help people overcome their disadvantages or to meet specific needs. As a service provider or employer you can use positive action where you believe one of these conditions apply:

1. People who share a protected characteristic suffer disadvantage associated with that characteristic;
2. People who share a protected characteristic have needs that are different from the needs of people who do not have that characteristic; or
3. Participation in an activity is disproportionately low.

What is equality and diversity?

Although sometimes used interchangeably, the terms equality and diversity are not the same.


Equality is about creating a fairer society, where everyone can participate and has the opportunity to fulfil their potential. By eliminating prejudice and discrimination, the IGP can deliver services that are personal, fair and diverse and a society that is healthier and happier. For the IGP, this means making it more accountable to the patients it serves and tackling discrimination in the work place.

For example, occupational segregation. Women make up almost 75% of the NHS workforce but are concentrated in the lower-paid occupational areas: nursing, allied health professionals (AHPs), administrative workers and ancillary workers. People from black and minority ethnic groups comprise 39.1% of hospital medical staff yet they comprise only 22.1% of all hospital medical consultants.

An equalities approach understands that who we are, based on social categories such as gender, race, disability, age, social class, sexuality and religion - will impact on our life experiences.


Diversity literally means difference. When it is used as a contrast or addition to equality, it is about recognising individual as well as group differences, treating people as individuals, and placing positive value on diversity in the community and in the workforce.

Historically, employers and services have ignored certain differences such as background, personality and work style. However, individual and group diversity needs to be considered in order to ensure that everybody's needs and requirements are understood and responded to within employment practice and service design and delivery.

One way in which organisations have responded to the issue of diversity in recent years has been the development of flexibility in working practices and services. For example, an employer may allow an employee to work a flexible working pattern to accommodate child care arrangements, or a GP surgery may offer surgeries at the weekends to accommodate those who work full time during the week.

These approaches recognise that in order to provide accessible services and to ensure we promote inclusive working environments organisations may need to respond differently to both individuals and to groups.

A holistic approach means making a commitment to equality through the recognition of diversity.

Why is equality and diversity important?

Equality and diversity is becoming more important in all aspects of our lives and work for a number of reasons:

We live in an increasingly diverse society and need to be able to respond appropriately and sensitively to this diversity. Learners in the healthcare setting will reflect this diversity around gender, race and ethnicity, disability, religion, sexuality, class and age.
Your organisation believes that successful implementation of equality and diversity in all aspects of work ensures that colleagues, staff and students are valued, motivated and treated fairly.
We have an equality and human rights legal framework covering employment practices and service delivery and we need to ensure we work within this and avoid discrimination.

Valuing diversity

It is important that you consider how an individual's social identity may impact on their experience of the IGP. The ways in which discrimination works include stereotyping, making assumptions, patronising, humiliating and disrespecting people, taking some people less seriously.

To ensure that we value diversity and consider the individual's identity appropriately, the following principles may be useful:

Recognise that we need to treat all employees/patients as individuals and respond to them, and their social identity, in an individual manner.
Understand that treating people fairly does not mean treating people in the same way - we need to recognise difference and respond appropriately.
Respect all employees/patients regardless of their protected characteristic or social situation.
Try to increase our knowledge and understanding of aspects of social identity that may be different from our own.
Avoid stereotyping or making assumptions about employees/patients based on their social identity.
Recognise that elements of work or interaction may impact on some employees/patients in a negative or difficult way because of an aspect of their social identity.
Recognise that working times or appointment times, may impact on some employees/patients more than others.
Recognise that your own social identity may impact on employees/patients in different ways.
Avoid using inappropriate and disrespectful language relating to social identity or social situations.

Human rights

Human rights are the basic rights and principles that belong to every person in the world. Human Rights are based on the FREDA principles: Fairness, Respect, Equality, Dignity and Autonomy. Human rights protect an individual's freedom to control their day-to-day life, and effectively participate in all aspects of public life in a fair and equal way. Human rights help individuals to flourish and achieve potential through:

Being safe and protected from harm
Being treated fairly and with dignity
Being able to live the life you choose
Taking an active part in your community and wider society.

Intrinsic to these statements should be the principles of equality and diversity.

Since 1998 the UK has also included human rights within its legal framework. The Human Rights Act applies to all public authorities and bodies performing a public function. The Human Rights Acts places the following responsibility on your organisation.

Organisations must promote and protect an individual's human rights. This means treating people fairly, with dignity and respect while safeguarding the rights of the wider community.
Organisations should apply core human rights values, such as equality, dignity, privacy, respect and involvement, to all organisational service planning and decision making.

The Human Rights Act provides a complementary legal framework to the anti-discriminatory framework and the public duties.

As an employer, IGP are committed to:

Creating a working environment that promotes dignity and respect to all. No form of intimidation, bullying or harassment will be tolerated. The Dignity at Work policy explains our approach to managing bullying and harassment in the workplace. We provide mandatory equality and diversity training for new joiners, which staff refresh every year via an e-learning programme, to ensure that everyone understands the behaviours that are expected of them at work.
Making sure that our policies and procedures comply with employment and equality legislation.
Evaluating the impact of our policies, services and functions and making changes to them where they impact unfairly or adversely on any group(s).
Making sure that selection for employment, promotion, training or any other benefit is on the basis of merit and ability.
Making reasonable adjustments for disabled staff.
Ensuring that all employees are helped and encouraged to develop their full potential.
Creating a working environment in which individual differences and the contributions of all our staff are recognised and valued.
Ensuring that training, development and progression opportunities are available to all staff.
Collecting, monitoring and analysing the diversity of applicants and our workforce to ensure that we reflect the diverse communities we serve.
Making sure that staff involved in recruitment and selection decisions attend a training programme that covers all aspects of good practice on equality and diversity.

What are your responsibilities as a manager?

As a manager you are responsible for making sure that:

You provide support and direction to staff reporting to you about the behaviours expected of them at work.
You are a role model for good behaviour
You deal quickly and effectively with concerns and complaints, or any breaches of the Equality and Diversity, or Dignity at Work policies
Staff attend / complete our mandatory equality and diversity training
Staff are encouraged, supported and enabled to reach their full potential
Together with HR, employees are effectively supported at work, and that any necessary modifications are made to working arrangements, for example, by making reasonable adjustments for disabled employees.

What are your resposibilities as a staff member?

We are all responsible for:

Making sure that our behaviour and actions do not amount to discrimination, harassment, bullying or victimisation in any way
Recognising and respecting the needs and backgrounds of both colleagues and the people we deal with
Raising any breaches of the Equality and Diversity, or Dignity at Work policies with your manager, HR Manager, or through your staff forum representative.

What happens if this policy is breached?

Breaches of the Equality and Diversity, or Dignity at Work policies, will be dealt with under our Disciplinary Procedure, and could lead to dismissal in serious or repeated cases.

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The Independent General Practice