Marriage and Civil Partnership

What the law says

The Equality Act 2010 protects people who are married or in a civil partnership from direct and indirect discrimination and victimisation in employment. This protection does not extend to single people.

The Civil Partnership Act came into force on 5th December 2005, enabling same sex couples to legally register their partnerships. This gives parity of treatment in a wide range of legal matters with those opposite sex couples who enter into a civil marriage.

Same-sex couples who register as civil partners have the same rights as married couples in employment and must be provided with the same benefits available to married couples, such as survivor pensions, flexible working, maternity/paternity pay and healthcare insurance.

What does the Act cover in relation to employment?

The Act provides protection against discrimination and victimisation on the grounds of marriage or civil partnership throughout the whole employment relationship, including:

  • recruitment and selection

  • terms of employment

  • benefits provided during employment and on termination

  • promotion opportunities

  • access to training

  • dismissal (including redundancy)

  • retirement  

  • post termination discrimination and harassment

What types of discrimination does the legislation refer to?

Direct Discrimination - Treating people less favourably than others because they are married or in a civil partnership

Indirect Discrimination - Applying a provision, criterion or practice which disadvantages people who are married or in a civil partnership AND which cannot be shown as a proportionate means (i.e. necessary and there is no alternative means available) of achieving a legitimate aim (e.g. a real business need)

Victimisation - Treating a person less favourably than others because the person has:

  • brought proceedings under the Act;

  • given evidence or information in connection with proceedings under the Act

  • done any other thing for the purposes of or in connection with this Act

  • made an allegation (whether or not express) that there has been a breach of the Act

Protection is not afforded where the person gives false evidence or information or makes an allegation or has given evidence or information in bad faith.

Useful Links

Further information about the Equality Act 2010 and marriage and civil partnership can be found at the following websites:

Equality & Human Rights Commission 

 The Equality Challenge Unit

Advisory, Conciliation & Arbitration Service (ACAS)

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Last Updated July 2012