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Gender equality and the Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 further enhances gender and gender re-assignment-based equality and requires employers to be more open about differences in pay between men and women.


The act includes a number of specific provisions relevant to gender and gender re-assignment, including:

Protected characteristics

Gender and gender re-assignment are protected characteristics under the new act, and direct, indirect, harassment and victimisation are unlawful under the act.

Pregnancy and maternity is also a protected characteristic under the new legislation, offering greater recognition in law to discrimination experienced by pregnant women and new mothers.

When the law applies for gender re-assignment

The Equality Act has changed the point at which people undergoing gender re-assignment gain protection in employment and the delivery of services.

Under the new law, a person will have protection if they are proposing to undergo, are undergoing or have undergone a process or part of a process in order to re-assign their gender.

Effectively, from the point at which a person tells their employer or a service provider they intend to undergo gender re-assignment. They are entitled to protection because of gender re-assignment.

The law will also provide protection in employment to people undergoing gender re-assignment, by stopping employers from penalising them for taking time off work when undergoing medical treatment or experiencing sickness as a result of any treatment they receive in order to undergo re-assignment.

Breastfeeding mothers

The Equality Act makes it unlawful for providers of services or the owners of publicly used places to ask a mother who is breastfeeding to stop or to use a private room or facility.

This change provides more dignity for mothers who need to feed their babies, and should help stop discrimination against them.

We aim to create an atmosphere in which breastfeeding mothers may feel comfortable and relaxed when feeding their children. This is why we've set up the Breastfeeding Welcome Here Award - to encourage establishments like cafes, GP surgeries, libraries and even schools to actively support staff in making their premises breastfeeding friendly.

Equal pay

There are a small number of changes to the law on equal pay.

The two main changes include:

  • Plans to make employers publish information about gender pay gaps - this will require employers to publish information about any inequalities in pay between male and female employees.

  • Making 'pay gagging clauses' unlawful – this is where employees have been prevented from divulging how much they are paid. In the past this has helped employers hide inequality in pay between men and women.

Public sector duty to promote equality

View our updated information on the new public sector equality duty which replaced the duty to promote gender equality.

Celebrating 100 years of some women gaining the vote

2018 marks the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918 in which some women in the UK could first vote in local and national elections. The Act came about because of the important role that women had played in the First World War and followed many years of campaigning by Women's Suffrage groups. Under this legislation all men were given voting rights from the age of 21 years whilst women had to be 30 years of age and either own property, be related to a member of the local government register, or have a degree and live in a university constituency.

Whilst the Act was limited in its impact and still meant most women, especially working class women, were unable to exercise their vote, it marked a 10 year journey which resulted in women gaining equal voting rights in 1928 under the Equal Franchise Act 1928.

Look out for events over the coming year marking the centenary. Our Records Office is a useful source of further information about the suffrage movement and local campaigners from Derbyshire.