A glossary of equality terms
An access agreement sets out a university or college’s fee limits and the access measures it intends to put in place such as outreach work and financial support.
Access agreements cover full-time undergraduate courses and PGCE and initial teacher training courses for home/EU students at English universities and colleges. Access agreements do not cover postgraduate courses or apply to international students.
All publicly-funded providers of higher education in England that wish to charge tuition fees above the basic level must submit an access agreement to the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) for approval. OFFA monitors institutions’ progress in meeting their access agreement commitments on an annual basis.
See Outcome agreements for colleges and higher education institutions (HEIs) in Scotland.
A law or piece of legislation passed by both Houses of Parliament and agreed to by the Crown when it then becomes statutory law.
Affirmative action is an American public policy approach that aims to eliminate the current effects of past discrimination. In practice, it means that positive steps are taken to increase the representation of historically disadvantaged groups — women and people from ethnic minorities, in employment and education, for example. Affirmative action programmes seek to remedy the effects of discrimination on the grounds of race, gender or ethnicity, or combat ongoing institutionalised and unintentional practices. Preferential selection, ie selection on the basis of race, ethnicity or gender, is a controversial form of affirmative action and has been legally challenged in the USA.
Age discrimination (ageism)
John MacNicol (Age discrimination: an historical and contemporary analysis, 2006:6) defines ageism as
application of assumed age-based group characteristics to an individual, regardless of that individual’s actual personal characteristics.
As an example, in an interview the panel may assume that ‘older’ candidates are less able to learn new skills or ‘younger’ candidates are less likely to be committed to the organisation. Such assumptions may mean that the panel members fail to consider the individual’s skills, experience and personal characteristics.
Age discrimination can be experienced by anyone, at any age, young and old.
The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against employees, job seekers and trainees because of their age. This includes direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation. The Equality Act also removed the upper age limits on unfair dismissal and redundancy. In October 2012, the ban on age discrimination was extended to the provision of services and public functions.
Standard or traditional ways of presenting information are not always accessible to all people. Whether preparing printed materials or holding an event, consideration should be given to alternative ways of communicating and providing information. Alternative formats include Braille, audio or video formats, large print, human readers, note-takers, British Sign Language interpreters, palantypists and other communication support workers, computer screen readers, CD-ROM, other IT data storage devices and specific IT packages.
The Equality Act 2010 places a duty upon HEIs to make reasonable adjustments for disabled staff, students and visitors. Section 20 specifies that the three requirements of the duty are: provision, criteria or practice; physical features; and auxiliary aids. Disabled students’ requirements for alternative formats must, where possible, be anticipated by an institution, which must offer course and relevant materials in an alternative format. This includes providing any recruitment material in an alternative format if it is requested.
The person who has requested an alternative format is the best person to ask about what exactly is required.
- ECU (2012) Digitisation and reformatting: recommendations from current provision in Scottish higher education.
- ECU (2010) Managing reasonable adjustments in higher education.
- JISC TechDis (2008) Guide to obtaining textbooks in alternative formats.
- JISC TechDis (2004) Accessible events: a good practice guide for staff organising events in higher education.
For colleges and HEIs as service providers, the duty to make reasonable adjustments is anticipatory; within reason, it is owed to all potential students/visitors and staff and not just those known to the college or HEIs.
Antisemitism is hostility towards or prejudice against Jews or Judaism. It has been defined by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) as
a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred towards Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed towards Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.
Assisting in discrimination
A person who knowingly aids another to commit an unlawful act of discrimination will be treated as having also committed that act of discrimination unless it can be shown that s/he reasonably relied on a statement from that other person that the act would not be unlawful.
Athena SWAN Charter mark
The Athena SWAN Charter is a scheme which recognises excellence in science, technology, engineering mathematics and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education. The Charter was launched in June 2005. Any university or research institution which is committed to the advancement and promotion of the careers of women in STEMM in higher education and research can apply for membership.
The European Centre for Strategic Management of Universities defines benchmarking as
the systematic collection of data and information with a view of making relevant comparisons of strengths and weaknesses, of aspects of performance (functions or processes), usually with others in the sector. Benchmarking identifies gaps in performance, seeking new approaches for improvements, monitoring progress, reviewing benefits and adopting good practices.
In other words, benchmarking means comparing and evaluating processes and performance against other organisations (so, for HEIs, other institutions), identifying where and how these can be improved. Benchmarking can be a useful exercise for organisations to evaluate their equality and diversity policies and practices.
The Equality Act 2010 extends the protection from discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity, which already existed for women in the workplace and vocational training, to women outside the workplace which includes students and applicants to higher education.
Under the Act, discrimination can occur against a student because of her pregnancy or because she has given birth, if the student is treated unfavourably because she is breastfeeding and the child is less than 26 weeks old; if the child is more than 26 weeks old, unfavourable treatment because of breastfeeding is likely to constitute sex discrimination.
Black and minority ethnic.
- ECU (2011) The experience of black and minority ethnic staff in higher education in England.
- HEA and ECU (2011) Improving the degree attainment of black and minority ethnic students.
Bullying can be defined as
offensive behaviour which violates a person’s dignity, or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment, or which humiliates or undermines an individual or group. Such behaviour can be vindictive, cruel or malicious.
Bullying can cause stress and employers may fail in their duty of care to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of employees, if they do not take steps to prevent it. Most HEIs now have policies, guidelines and codes of practice covering bullying, sometimes within a policy framework dealing with harassment.
Bullying can take various forms, from name-calling, sarcasm, teasing, and unwarranted criticism, to threats of violence or actual physical violence. The Health and Safety Executive estimates that bullying costs employers up to 80 million working days a year in lost productivity and over £2 billion a year in lost revenue. Bullying can also cause low morale and produce a high turnover of staff.
- ECU, UCU and Unison (2007) Dignity at work: a good practice guide for HEIs.
The Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force on 5 December 2005 and gives same-sex couples the right to obtain legal recognition of their relationship. Couples who form a civil partnership have a new legal status, that of civil partner.
Civil partners have equal treatment to married couples in a wide range of legal matters, including:
- tax, including inheritance tax
- employment benefits
- most state and occupational pension benefits
- income-related benefits, tax credits and child support
- duty to provide reasonable maintenance for your civil partner and any children of the family
- ability to apply for parental responsibility for your civil partner's child
- inheritance of a tenancy agreement
- recognition under intestacy rules
- access to fatal accidents compensation
- protection from domestic violence
- recognition for immigration and nationality purposes
In employment issues, civil partnership and marriage is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
- ECU (2005) The Civil Partnership Act 2004: guidance.
Deemed to be aware
All parts of an organisation are deemed to be aware of a relevant fact as soon as one responsible part of the organisation is informed of that fact.
For example, if the welfare office is informed of a disability, then all other offices of an HEI are considered to have been informed at that point in time and must act accordingly. This is to prevent an individual from needing to undertake multiple notifications to various parts of a large bureaucracy. It is up to the individual institution to ensure procedures are in place to disseminate information as necessary, but not more widely than is necessary.
Employees are entitled to take time off for unforeseen emergencies in respect of their dependants. Dependants are defined as being the employee’s spouse, child or parent, or anyone who lives in the same household (except employees, tenants, lodgers or boarders). The right provides for immediate, short-term absence to attend to the dependant’s immediate needs and make provision in the longer term. It does not allow for longer-term absence from work.
There is no statutory right for dependency leave to be paid, though in practice many institutions do in certain circumstances provide for some pay.
Direct discrimination is one of the four main categories of unlawful discrimination and occurs when a person treats another person less favourably than they would because of a protected characteristic (see also indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation).
For example, recruiting a male applicant to a position rather than a more appropriately qualified woman because of irrational, prejudicial or stereotypical views, or not accepting a disabled person on to a course because it is assumed they would not be able to meet the required course standards due to being disabled, would constitute direct discrimination.
Intentions and motives are irrelevant in cases of direct discrimination, because it is the act that is unlawful, not the intention.
A physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person's ability to carry out normal day to day activities.
The medical model of disability is a deficit model which defines disability with reference to how a disabled person is different from non-disabled people. The ‘problem’ of disability is situated within the individual’s impairment and any effect it has on the functioning of that person’s mind or body; the causation of pain and fatigue, and the effect on communication.
In the social model, disability is defined as a problem created by society – specifically the way in which organisations, services and systems are designed or organised, which have historically taken little or no account of people who have impairments. People with impairments are therefore frequently disabled by society and excluded from mainstream activities. Thus ‘disability’ is not about medical terms but is about the barriers (physical, social, attitudinal and environmental) that result from the way society is organised and the way people with impairments are viewed.
In the social model, disability should be distinguished from impairment and ill-health and should be seen as disadvantage experienced by an individual resulting from barriers to independent living or educational, employment or other opportunities that impact on people with impairments and/or ill-health.
Modern disability equality legislation is based on both the medical and social models of disability.
Disclosure is the process by which an individual declares personal equality information, such as their sexual orientation, ethnicity or whether they are disabled.
Equality legislation imposes specific duties on institutions with regard to monitoring the diversity of prospective, current and past staff and students. If institutions want to ensure they have an accurate picture of the diversity of their workforce and student profile they must create an appropriate atmosphere in which individuals feel comfortable in disclosing.
It is important that the reasons and benefits for disclosure, and the support services available, are effectively communicated to staff and students. For example, information disclosed in regard to disability status can be used to provide reasonable adjustments that will help the individual to realise his/her full potential in their career or studies.
Declaration is sometimes used in place of disclosure to describe the process of formally notifying the workplace of personal equality information, as some people perceive 'disclosure' to have negative connotations.
Discrimination by association refers to
the situation where an individual is discriminated against because of the characteristic of another person, namely someone with whom they are associated.
For example, discrimination based on association can occur if an employee is overlooked for promotion because their partner has undergone gender reassignment.
This form of discrimination is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 and applies to the following protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex and sexual orientation.
Discrimination by perception is
discrimination against someone because he or she is perceived to have a certain protected characteristic.
For example, discrimination by perception can occur if a mental health and wellbeing officer refuses to work with a student because they believe the student to be gay irrespective of whether the student is gay or not.
This form of discrimination is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 and applies to the following protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex and sexual orientation.
Diversity recognises that everyone is different in a variety of visible and non-visible ways, and that those differences are to be recognised, respected and valued.
These ways may include, but are not limited to, the protected characteristics specified in section 4 of the Equality Act 2010: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief (including lack of belief) sex, and sexual orientation.
Currently people may only bring discrimination claims relating to one protected characteristic. At the time of writing, the government announced that commencement of the dual discrimination provisions in the Equality Act 2010 would be delayed until at least 2015.
If it commences, the combined discrimination section (section 14) will protect people who experience direct discrimination because of a combination of two protected characteristics (marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity are not included in these provisions).
This provision will mean, for example, that a black female member of staff who is discriminated against because she is a black woman could bring a single claim for combined race and sex discrimination. However, if she feels she is being discriminated against because she is black or because she is a woman, she could also bring a claim for race or sex discrimination on its own.
Equal pay/gender pay gap
'Equal pay' is used to refer to the provisions in law which require men and women to be paid the same where they are employed on like work, work rated as equivalent under a valid job evaluation scheme, or work of equal value, unless the pay difference can be objectively justified. The legal requirement was previously covered under the Equal pay Act 1970, but has since been replaced by the Equality Act 2010.
The Act introduces provisions to ensure pay equality:
- Section 71 introduces provisions that enable a person who has less favourable contractual pay conditions because of their sex to bring an equal pay claim against their employer. They would not require a comparator to bring a claim but would need to show evidence of direct sex discrimination.
- Section 77 protects people from victimisation by their employer if they discuss their pay with colleagues with a view to establishing differences in pay that may exist because of a protected characteristic. It also makes terms of employment or appointment that prevent or restrict discussions relating to pay unenforceable.
- Section 78 contains a power to require public sector employers and employers with 250 or more employees to publish information on their gender pay gap. Section 78 has not been enacted because, rather than implementing a mandatory approach which would apply to all sectors, the government has instead introduced a scheme ('Think, act, report') to encourage businesses to increase transparency on a voluntary basis.
The specific duties for Wales require public sector organisations to collect employee data in respect of pay differences and the cause of the differences for all the protected characteristics (regulation 11) and develop pay difference objectives that address the cause of any pay difference. HEIs should have published an action plan on gender pay difference by April 2012.
In Scotland, the specific duties require colleges and HEIs with 150 employees or more to publish information on the percentage difference between men's and women's average hourly pay (excluding overtime) by 30 April 2013 and every two to four years after that containing the college or HEI's policies on equal pay and occupational segregation. The first statement must contain information relating to women and men and the second (therefore no later than April 2017) and subsequent statements must cover policies on equal pay on grounds of disability and race as well as sex.
In order to comply with equal pay legislation it is recommended that the employers have a job evaluation scheme in place and that they carry out an equal pay audit to highlight and rectify disparities. Within the higher education sector, assimilation to the framework agreement sought to overcome historical unequal pay concerns.
- ECU (2010) Promoting equality in pay: a practical resource for conducting equal pay reviews in higher education.
Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
The EHRC opened on 1 October 2007. It covers England, Scotland and Wales, but not Northern Ireland, which is under the remit of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland. It has offices in Cardiff, Glasgow, London and Manchester.
The EHRC took over the work of the three previous commissions established to tackle discrimination and promote equality in Great Britain – the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Commission for Racial Equality, and the Disability Rights Commission – as well as combining the responsibilities and powers of these commissions. It also took on responsibility for furthering equality in the areas of age, religion or belief and sexual orientation, as well as human rights (in England and Wales). Human rights issues in Scotland are covered by the Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland.
The EHRC is a non-departmental public body established under the Equality Act 2006 – accountable for its public funds, but independent of government.
Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act, which received royal assent in April 2010 and came into force on 1 October 2010, replaced all previous equality legislation, including the Disability Discrimination Act 1975; Race Relations Act 1976; Sex Discrimination Act; the three Employment Equality Acts relating to religion, sexual orientation and age; and the Equal Pay Act 1970. The Act covers England, Scotland and Wales
The Act introduced a number of new legal provisions, including:
- protected characteristics for which discrimination is unlawful
- a new definition of direct and indirect discrimination
- an extended definition of harassment
- a new public sector duty, covering all of the protected characteristics apart from marriage and civil partnership
- extension of positive action to include students
The legislation covers employment, education, the provision of goods, facilities and services, the management of premises and the exercise of public functions and applies to both, during and after their relationship with an HEI.
There is further information on our Equality Act 2010 homepage.
Under the specific duties provided in the Equality Act 2010, public authorities in England and Wales are legally required to set equality objectives identifying key equality challenges they will address. These objectives must be specific and measurable, and detail how progress will be measured.
Equality objectives should have been prepared and published by 2 April 2012 for public bodies in Wales and 6 April 2012 for public bodies in England and at least every four years after.
There is further information on our Equality Act 2010 homepage.
Equality of opportunity, may be defined as ensuring that everyone is entitled to freedom from discrimination. There are two main types of equality encompassed in equality of opportunity.
Equality of treatment is concerned with treating everyone the same. Thus, in an organisational context it recognises that institutional discrimination may exist in the form of unfair procedures and practices that favour those with some personal attributes, over others without them. The task of equal opportunities is therefore concerned with the elimination of these barriers.
Equality of outcome focuses on policies that either have an equal impact on different groups or intend the same outcomes for different groups.
Equality of opportunity is a key component of the Equality Act public sector duty. Public authorities are legally required to have due regard to the need to advance equality of opportunity between people of different groups.
In Scotland, colleges and HEIs must prepare and publish a set of equality outcomes by 30 April 2012 to enable them to better perform the general duty. In developing their set of outcomes, colleges and HEIs must consider relevant evidence relating to people who share a protected characteristic and publish reasons if the equality outcomes do not cover every relevant protected characteristic.
A term used to describe the actions or ideologies of individuals or groups outside the perceived political centre of society; or otherwise claimed to violate common moral standards. The term is invariably, or almost invariably, used pejoratively. Extremism is usually contrasted with moderation, and extremists with moderates.
- ECU (2011) Religion and belief in higher education: researching the experiences of staff and students.
- ECU (2012) Attracting international students: equitable services and support, campus cohesion and community engagement.
- ECU (2013) Promoting good relations on campus: a guide for further and higher education
Family-friendly refers to the policies, procedures or practices (mainly in an employment context but they can also be in other areas such as welfare benefits, social care and health) that aim to be more sympathetic to life events such as the birth of children, bringing up and caring for children, illness in the family, caring for sick or elderly relatives, death, and dealing with the unexpected. The intention is to create a more flexible way of organising society, and especially the world of work, that is more supportive of family life.
The government intends to introduce a system of flexible parental leave and statutory flexible parental pay in 2015.
For a number of years, employees with dependants have had a statutory right to request a flexible working arrangement. Flexible working can be broadly defined as any variation to the standard working day/week. Employers do not have to agree but they have to have sound business reasons for refusing. A number of employers, including universities have chosen to widen the eligibility pool to all staff.
It is important for line managers to respond flexibly to such requests and resist instant refusals on the assumption that because a job has always been carried out on a full-time basis that there is no possibility for it to be done just as effectively in a different way.
Following the flexible working section of the modern workplaces consultation the government announced that it will proceed with the extensions of the right to request flexible working to all employees and implement a package of measures to reform the right to request flexible working regulations. The government will bring forward the children and families bill in order to implement these changes by 2014.
For more information, refer to ECU's resources on flexible working.
Gender refers to the
socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.
It is often confused with ‘sex’, which refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women.
Gender reassignment is a process which is undertaken under medical supervision for the purpose of reassigning a person’s sex by changing physiological or other characteristics of their sex, and includes any part of such a process. A person does not have to undergo gender reassignment in order to transition fully from one sex to another. Furthermore, someone may have gender dysphoria but not want to transition fully.
The diagnosis of gender dysphoria is an essential legal prerequisite for obtaining a gender recognition certificate (GRC), a legal document which affords a person all the rights and responsibilities appropriate to the acquired gender. If their birth was registered in the UK they will be only eligible to receive a new birth certificate with a GRC.
Gender reassignment is also referred to as sex reassignment. In fact, the term gender reassignment is considered by some to be inaccurate, as people with gender dysphoria do not change the gender with which they identify, they change their sexual characteristics to match their gender identity.
In order to understand the social, medical and legal implications of trans issues, and the impact they have on an institution's equality agenda and employment practices, it is important to be aware of the variety of terms that may be used.
The general duty, set out in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010, requires that those subject to the general duty show due regard to the need to:
- eliminate unlawful direct or indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation and the other conduct prohibited by the Equality Act 2010
- advance equality of opportunity between people from different groups
- foster good relations between different groups
To comply with the general duty, institutions may treat some people more favourably than others, as far as this is allowed by UK and European anti-discrimination law. The general duty also explicitly recognises that disabled people's requirements may be different from those of non-disabled people. HEIs are required to take account of disabled people's impairments and must make reasonable adjustments for disabled people.
Genuine occupational requirement
A genuine occupational requirement may allow for a valid defence to what would otherwise be unlawful direct discrimination. It applies in limited circumstances where having a particular characteristic can be a genuine requirement for a job.
For example, being of a particular age, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation may be essential criteria in the job description and person specification, such as requiring that a female part in a play be acted by a female actress, or that the chief executive of an organisation established to promote gay rights be gay him or herself.
As a number of people entering further and higher education to work or to study increases, so the diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints within institutions grows. This increases both the opportunity for positive exchange and learning between people that creates an appreciation of difference, and the risk of disharmony, polarisation and conflict. The term 'good relations' is used to describe the work that institutions undertake to deal with situations that threaten to destabilise relations between individuals and groups and to promote interactions that support understanding and cohesion.
Institutions have a legal duty to ensure that staff, students and others are protected from direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation, and to foster good relations between individuals and groups. As environments of research and learning, HEIs and colleges also have a special role in promoting and encouraging vigorous debate, free speech and freedom of enquiry within the law (special legal status applies to the promotion of free speech and enquiry within HEIs and colleges, as laid out in the Education Act 1986, the Education Reform Act 1988, the Irish Universities Act 1997 and the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 2005). Good relations issues often arise as institutions seek to negotiate the complexities of the relationship between freedom of expression and protection from discrimination and harassment.
ECU is currently running a project on promoting good relations on campus.
Guaranteed interview scheme
This is a scheme for disabled people which means that an applicant will be invited for interview if they meet the essential specific requirements of the job.
Harassment can be defined as
unwanted conduct which may create the effect of violating a person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment which interferes with an individual’s learning, working or social environment or induces stress, anxiety, fear or sickness on the part of the harassed person.
Differences of attitude, background or culture and the misinterpretation of social signals can mean that what is perceived as harassment by one person may not seem so to another; nevertheless, this does not make it acceptable.
Section 26 of the Equality Act outlines three types of harassment:
- unwanted conduct that has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the complainant, or violating the complainant's dignity (this applies to all the protected characteristics apart from the pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership)
- unwanted conduct of a sexual nature (sexual harassment)
- treating a person less favourably than another person because they have either submitted to, or did not submit to, sexual harassment related to sex or gender reassignment
In addition to being harassed because of a protected characteristic, people are also protected from harassment if they are perceived to have, or associate with someone with, a protected characteristic. The perceptions of the recipient of the harassment are very important and harassment can be deemed to have occurred even if the intention was not present, but the recipient felt they were being harassed.
It is also a criminal offence to harass (or stalk) someone persistently.
ECU is currently running a project on promoting good relations on campus.
The Equality Act limits the circumstances in which employers are able to ask health-related questions before they offer an individual a job. The circumstances in which employers can legally ask health-related questions are:
- in deciding whether they need to make any reasonable adjustments for the person to the selection process
- in deciding whether an applicant can carry out a function that is essential ('intrinsic') to the job
- in order to monitor diversity among people making applications for jobs
- in order to take positive action to assist disabled people
- in order to determine that a candidate has a disability where the job genuinely requires the jobholder to have a disability
For further information, refer to our FAQ on health-related questionnaires.
Impact assessments refer to the process by which every policy, procedure, practice, plan and strategy of an organisation (including HEIs) is systematically reviewed and evaluated to ensure that they are not discriminatory and that they are making a positive contribution to equality. This is done by assessing how the impact they have differs (if at all) for different equality target groups. This normally requires the collection of statistical data for the area under review, and its analysis according to equality variables. It may also be necessary to consult and involve different groups of staff and service users, in order to obtain qualitative data.
The assessment process normally has two stages:
- initial screening for potential equality impact
- more in-depth full equality impact assessment, where there is a significant or important potential effect on equality that must be examined
- ECU (2010) Equality in admissions: equality impact assessments in higher education
- ECU (2010) Equality in restructuring and redundancy: equality impact assessments in higher education
- ECU and HEFCE (2007) Conducting equality impact assessments in higher education
- EHRC (2009) Equality impact assessment guidance: a step-by-step guide to integrating equality impact assessment into policy making and review
- EHRC (2009) Equality impact assessment quick-start guide: a step-by-step guide to integrating equality impact assessment into policy making and review
- Scottish Government Equality and diversity impact assessment toolkit
- Welsh Assembly Government (2009) Inclusive policy making guidance
People can be born with an impairment or can acquire one through accident or illness. Impairments are long-term characteristics of an individual that affect their physical, sensory, intellectual or cognitive abilities and/or appearance. Many people who have an impairment would not necessarily consider themselves to be disabled.
Indirect discrimination is one of the four main categories of discrimination (see also direct discrimination, harassment and victimisation). Indirect discrimination occurs when a provision, criterion or practice is neutral on the face of it, but its impact particularly disadvantages people with a protected characteristic, unless the person applying the provision can justify it as a proportion means of achieving a legitimate aim. For example:
- dress codes requiring women to wear knee length skirts could indirectly discriminate against women from some cultural or religious groups who would not feel able to dress in this way
- unnecessary height requirements, which state that employees in some roles have to be six feet tall could discriminate against women, or members of some ethnic groups who would not usually be able to meet the requirement
Section 19 of the Equality Act specifies that indirect discrimination is unlawful across all the protected characteristics, with the exception of pregnancy and maternity.
Although the term institutional racism has been in use for many years (largely unnoticed) it came to prominence/notoriety following the inquiry into the death of black teenager Stephen Lawrence. The inquiry report (the Macpherson report) defined institutional racism as:
the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin which can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantages minority ethnic people.
The definition is controversial because of the inclusion of the word ‘unwitting’ ie unknowing, or unaware. However, it is still the most widely accepted definition.
This refers to structures, procedures or practices that have been established on the basis of a belief that women can only undertake certain roles. It is concerned with sexual discrimination, which has been incorporated into structures, processes and procedures of organisations, either because of sexual prejudice or because of a failure to take into account the particular needs of women.
Instruction to discriminate
It is unlawful to instruct others to discriminate on your behalf. The law treats this as is if the body/person issuing the instruction had conducted the discrimination themselves.
Job share refers to when the responsibility for one job shared in alternation with one or more part-time workers. Job sharing is a form of flexible working which can help individuals to balance their careers with other responsibilities.
For more information, refer to ECU's resources on flexible working.
The legacy commissions refer to the former Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) and the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), which respectively had responsibility for promoting racial, disability and sex equality in Britain before the Equality and Human Rights Commission came into existence.
LGBT is a commonly used abbreviation for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans community. The order of the abbreviation varies between organisations and practices (for example, women-only communities may refer to the LBT community). There is not, at present, a uniform order, although LGBT is the most common and is used in national events such as LGBT history month.
While trans status is different from sexual orientation, the forms of prejudice and discrimination directed against trans people can be very similar to those directed against lesbian, gay or bisexual people, and historically the two communities have coexisted and supported each other. As a result action and support groups often have a broader remit than sexual orientation.
Marriage and civil partnership
Section 8 of the Equality Act 2010, recognises marriage and civil partnership as a protected characteristic and replaces similar provisions in the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. It does not protect people who are not married or not in a civil partnership.
The Macpherson report was published in 1999 and summarised the results of the inquiry into the Metropolitan Police Service's investigation of the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence. The report included 70 key recommendations for public bodies, such as the police service, judicial system, the civil service, local government, the NHS and schools, to address institutional racism and improve the accountability of the police.
Mainstreaming equality is concerned with the integration of equal opportunities principles, strategies and practices into everyday work of government and other public bodies from the outset, involving everyday policy actors in addition to equality specialists. It is a long-term strategy to frame policies in terms of the realities of people's daily lives, and to change organisation cultures and structures accordingly.
Leave which a woman can take while she is pregnant and after the birth of her child divided into compulsory, ordinary and additional maternity leave. How much leave a woman is entitled to will vary, but all women employees are entitled to 26 weeks. See also pregnancy and maternity.
A process that involves collecting, storing, analysing and evaluating information, to measure performance, progress or change. For example, monitoring race equality involves collecting, storing, analysing and evaluating information about the racial groups to which people say they belong. Monitoring is also applied to collecting and analysing information about people’s gender, disability status, sexual orientation, religion or belief, or age to see whether all groups are fairly represented.
Generally, people belong not just to one identity group, but several. This can make them a target of prejudice on more than one level. For example, a lesbian woman who is Chinese, might experience racism from parts of the gay community, homophobia from parts of the Chinese community, as well as general racism and homophobia. This is known as multiple discrimination and is a consequence of multiple identities. A mainstreaming approach to equality helps to prevent multiple discrimination because it recognises that everyone belongs to several identity groups. The expression ‘intersectional discrimination’ is also sometimes used in this context.
See dual discrimination for provisions in the Equality Act 2010.
Individuals have many characteristics. A group of women may share gender in common but be different in many other ways. These will include ethnicity, sexuality, age and marital status. They may have varieties of jobs, caring responsibilities and economic and social status.
Relates to the country where someone is born, regardless of where they are now living and their current citizenship.
When an otherwise discriminatory action can be objectively justified by being shown to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim - that is, the way of achieving the aim is appropriate and necessary.
The ongoing maintenance and promotion of physical, mental and social well-being for all workers.
Outcome agreements in Scotland are agreed between the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and colleges and universities. They set out what colleges and universities plan to deliver in return for their funding from the SFC. Their focus is on the contribution that the colleges and universities make towards improving life chances and supporting world-class research and sustainable economic growth for Scotland. The 2012-13 academic year is the first year in which outcome agreements have been negotiated and the SFC are working with colleges, universities and other stakeholders to develop then for future years.
Palantypist (speech to text reporter)
A palantypist reproduces speech into a text form onto a computer screen at verbatim speeds for deaf and hard of hearing people to read.
POLAR (Participation of Local Areas) is a classification of small areas across the UK and is published by HEFCE as a series of maps and data sets, showing the participation of young people in higher education for geographical areas ranging from regions to wards.
The classification comprises five quintile groups of areas ordered from 1 (those wards with the lowest participation) to 5 (those wards with the highest participation), each representing 20 per cent of young cohort.
POLAR3 is the most recent version of POLAR and uses information on those who entered higher education during 2005-06 to 2010-11 academic years.
This information is often used as a widening participation and performance indicator to assess whether certain groups are underrepresented in higher education relative to the population as a whole.
Positive action is the deliberate introduction of measures to eliminate or reduce discrimination, or its effects. It is not about special treatment for any one particular group, but the fair treatment of all people. It is concerned with levelling the playing field so that everyone has access to the same opportunities. The qualification floor remains the same.
There are three main types of positive action:
- action that reveals potential discriminatory practice through, for example, the assessment of policies or monitoring
- action which changes discriminatory practice in light of any findings
- action which attempts to counter-balance the underrepresentation of a particular group
This latter form of positive action includes the use of methods such as mentoring schemes, networks, outreach work, target setting and training.
Positive action is not the same as positive discrimination, an example of which would be promoting someone purely on the basis of his or her gender.
Section 159 of the Equality Act 2010 permits an employer to take a protected characteristic into consideration when deciding to recruit or promote, where people with the protected characteristic are at a disadvantage or underrepresented. This can be done only where the candidates are equally qualified, and it does not allow employers to have a policy of automatically treating people with a protected characteristic more favourably than those without.
Equally qualified is not a matter of only academic qualifications, but rather a judgment on the criteria the employer uses to establish who is best for the job which could include matters such as suitability, skills, competence and professional performance. The EHRC explains equally qualified to mean the situation in which there are:
two or more applicants for a job who would be able to do it equally well - although they may do it differently depending on their skills and qualities.
Positive action in recruitment does not apply to recruitment of students.
Positive discrimination occurs when one person, or group of people is treated more favourably than another person, or group, would be treated in the same situation, based on a defining characteristic. This characteristic might be race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion or belief. Positive discrimination is unlawful in Britain and Europe, unless there is a genuine occupational requirement.
Positive discrimination is sometimes confused with positive action, which is lawful.
being pregnant or expecting a baby.
the period after birth which is linked to maternity leave in the employment context.
In the non-work context, which includes students and those applying to further and higher education, protection against maternity discrimination is for 26 weeks after giving birth which includes treating a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding.
Prejudice is an adverse judgment, conviction or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts. It may be felt or expressed. It may be directed, without reason, toward a group or an individual of that group and may develop into an irrational suspicion or hatred. Although it is not possible to legislate against prejudice, prejudice often leads to discriminatory behaviour, which may in itself be unlawful.
A term used in relation to the range of goods and services colleges and HEIs require and deliver. It includes sourcing and appointment of a service provider and the subsequent management of the goods and services being provided.
Protected characteristics are the grounds upon which discrimination is unlawful. Under section 4 of the Equality Act 2010, the following characteristics are deemed to be protected:
- gender reassignment
- marriage and civil partnership
- pregnancy and maternity
- religion or belief (including lack of belief)
- sexual orientation
It is, however, permissible to treat a disabled person more favourably than a non disabled person; for example, to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that there is true equality of opportunity for disabled people.
Identifying a provision, criterion or practice is key to establishing indirect discrimination. It can include for example, any formal or informal policies, decisions, rules, practices, arrangements, criteria, conditions, perquisites or qualifications.
The public sector equality duty (PSED), as specified by the Equality Act 2010, came into force on 5 April 2011. It replaced the previous equality duties for race, disability, and gender in anti-discrimination legislation.
The equality duty consists of a general duty, with three main needs (set out in section 149 of the Equality Act), and specific duties (set out in the secondary legislation that accompanies the Act) designed to help public authorities (including colleges and HEIs) comply with the general duty.
An authority or body which can confer qualifications.
A quota is a fixed proportion (percentage) of something that has to be achieved by a certain time.
One example of a quota in an equality/HEI context would be the requirement to achieve a fixed percentage of women, say 50%, in a particular course of study by 2010. This quota (50%) would have to be achieved even if it involved lowering entry standards for women applicants or deliberately discriminating against male applicants in the admissions process.
In the United States some equality quotas are lawful as they are seen as an essential way of eliminating entrenched and long-standing historic inequalities relatively quickly, which may otherwise remain. In the UK, quotas are illegal, as fixing a quantity would inevitably result in direct discrimination/less favourable treatment. However, setting targets is not unlawful, as they can be attained through legitimate positive action measures.
The United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination defines racism as:
any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment, or exercise, on equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, or any other field of public life.
Other definitions of racism stress the importance of power (the actions of institutions and government) and ideology (the transmitting of ideas and culture) in determining racial exclusion and discrimination, rather than the actions of individuals (which is sometimes described as ‘racialism’).
The Macpherson inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence defined a racist incident as:
an incident that is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person.
This means that it is the perception of the victim or person reporting a racist incident that must be taken into account. The definition was introduced in an attempt to address the serious problem of under-reporting of racist incidents and racial abuse.
Research Excellence Framework (REF)
The REF is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK HEIs, replacing the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), which was last conducted in 2008. The REF differs from the RAE, and equality considerations are an integral part of the new assessment.
For more information, refer to ECU's resources on the REF.
Reasonable adjustments are steps that are taken to ensure disabled people are not placed at a 'substantial' disadvantage by the way an organisation operates.
A reasonable adjustment might involve:
- changing standard institutional procedures, such as admissions procedures and terms attached to offers of admission, enrolment procedures and examination and assessment methods
- adapting the curriculum (course content, work placements, use of electronic or other materials), or modifying the delivery of teaching
- providing additional services (any kind of aid or service, including teaching and information), whether temporary or permanent, such as a sign language interpreter or materials in alternative formats
- training staff to work with disabled students and to provide appropriate adjustments, for example, allowing more time to serve a disabled student
- encouraging staff to acquire additional skills in order to communicate effectively with disabled students, for example, in order to communicate with hearing impaired students and those with speech impairments
- altering the physical environment
Under the Equality Act 2010, HEIs have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled staff, students, and visitors where:
- a provision, criterion or practice puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a non-disabled person
- a physical feature puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a non-disabled person
- a disabled person would, but for the provisions of an auxiliary aid, be put at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a non-disabled person
Secondary legislation made under an Act of Parliament setting out subsidiary matters which assist in the Act's implementation.
Religion or belief
Religion is the belief in or worship of a god or gods as a particular system of belief or worship.
(Chambers Compact Dictionary 2000).
Religions can manifest themselves as a personal or institutionalised system grounded in such belief and worship.
The six main religious traditions held by people in the UK are: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism. However it should not be assumed that these traditions are monolithic.
Religion or belief is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 and covers the full diversity of religious and belief affiliations within the UK, including non-religious and philosophical beliefs such as atheism, agnosticism and humanism.
For more information, refer to ECU's publications related to religion and belief.
Sexual orientation is defined by section 12 of the Equality Act as being a person’s sexual orientation towards people of the same sex as him or her, people of the opposite sex from him or her, and people of both sexes. This relates to a person's feelings rather than their actions.
For more information, refer to ECU's publications related to sexual orientation.
Single-sex facilities or services
There is an exemption under the Equality Act 2010 for single-sex services and facilities where providing a service only to persons of one sex is permitted if the limited provision is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim and a set of conditions laid out in the Act are complied with. For example, this allows the provision of single-sex accommodation alongside mixed accommodation to meet the needs of female Muslim students or the provision of single-sex facilities in the gym.
The Office for National Statistics' socio-economic classification is used for all official statistics and surveys. It replaced social class based on occupation and socio-economic groups. This version of the classification, which will be used for most analyses (the analytic version), has eight classes, the first of which can be subdivided.
The socio-economic classification analytic classes are:
- higher managerial and professional occupations
- large employers and higher managerial occupations
- higher professional occupations
UCAS applicants are asked to self-identify the socio-economic classification of their parents occupation (or their own, depending on their age at application). This information is often used as a widening participation and performance indicator to assess whether certain groups are underrepresented in higher education relative to the population as a whole.
In an educational context, ‘special needs’ has been used for many years as a catch-all term that covers a wide range of situations relating to disability and impairments. In primary and secondary education it is often associated with learning difficulties. In tertiary education and employment special and additional needs have been used to describe staff or students, and anyone who requires a reasonable adjustment to be made for them. Many disabled adults find the term derogatory, and current thinking is that the term entitlements should be used instead of needs, as this reflects the entitlement of disabled people to equality of opportunity in employment, education and access to goods and services.
The Equality Act 2010 introduced a public sector equality duty, which colleges and HEIs are legally required to meet. The duty is underpinned by specific duties designed to help public authorities (including colleges and HEIs) comply with the general duty. These specific duties differ for England, Scotland and Wales.
The specific duties for England are to:
- publish information demonstrating compliance with the equality duty
- prepare and publish one or more specific and measurable equality objectives
- publish information and equality objectives in a manner that is accessible to the public
The specific duties for Wales are as follows:
- create an evidence base relevant to their functions
- engage staff, students and other people
- assess the impact of policies and practices
- develop pay difference objectives
- develop equality objectives
- report on compliance with the duty
- embed equality into all functions
The specific duties for Scotland are as follows:
- report on progress on mainstreaming the general duty into all functions
- develop and publish a set of equality outcomes that cover all protected characteristics (or explain why not all protected characteristics are covered)
- assess the impact of policies and practices against the needs of the general duty
- gather and use information on employees
- publish gender pay gap information
- publish statements on equal pay for gender, race and disability
- have due regard to the general duty in specified procurement practices
- publish information in a manner that is accessible
Where individuals or groups are not able to participate fully in society because of unemployment, low skill levels, poverty, bad health, poor housing, or other factors.
Social inclusion is about removing the barriers and factors which lead to exclusion so people can participate.
This is the process of assigning a person to a particular group (eg on the basis of physical appearance or a perception that they belong to a certain group) then generalising based on a belief that all members of the group share certain characteristics (the stereotype), then finally inferring that the individual must share these characteristics. Stereotyping underestimates variation within groups and stereotypes can be used to justify hostility, discrimination and oppression.
First described by social psychologist Claude Steele and his colleagues, as:
the subtle but powerful ways in which the devaluing and marginalising views of others about a group can influence individual achievement and performance.
In other words, the impact a known negative stereotype can have on the performance, for example in a job interview or course assessment, of an individual linked to that stereotype.
Targets are a method of redressing any equality-based underrepresentation in the staff or student body. Ideally, targets should be linked to monitoring activity, which highlights particular gaps that should be dealt with. Targets are distinct from quotas in that they do not override merit-based selection.
The two main types of target are quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative targets are the number or percentage of, for example, women, ethnic minority staff or disabled people that an organisation would aim to recruit. Qualitative targets could include a commitment to introduce equality training for everyone, or specific training for an underrepresented group, or the introduction of a new policy or practice such as flexible working.
An inclusive term for those who identify themselves as transgender, transsexual or transvestite. The word ‘trans’ can be used without offence to cover people undergoing gender transition; people who identify as someone with a different gender from that in which they were born, but who may have decided not to undergo medical treatment; and people who choose to dress in the clothing typically worn by the other sex. This term should only be used as an adjective, for example, 'a trans student'.
The Office for Fair Access defines underrepresented groups as groups that are currently underrepresented in higher education and at the national level. These groups include people from low-income backgrounds, low socio-economic groups, low participation neighbourhoods, minority ethnic groups and other sub groups that are underrepresented in higher education, for example, care leavers or disabled people.
HEIs and their governing bodies can be held to be vicariously liable for the acts or omissions of staff during the course of employment. This liability applies even if the action was not expressly authorised by the HEI.
To avoid vicarious liability an institution would need to show that it had taken all reasonable steps to ensure that the action had not taken place. This could be done by having a policy that was communicated to staff by training, briefing or otherwise informing them and by showing that, in the particular situation in question, the individual had acted contrary to the rules and procedures.
Victimisation is a form of unlawful discrimination, which occurs when one person treats another less favourably because he or she has asserted their legal rights in line with the Equality Act 2010 or helped someone else to do (section 27). For example, treating someone unfavourably because they have brought legal proceedings, given evidence, made a complaint, or supported someone who has made a complaint of unlawful discrimination against an HEI, a department or an individual.
Victimisation is unlawful if it takes place during the course of someone’s employment, or after the termination of their employment, for example in connection with the provision of employment references.
Victimisation on the grounds of race, gender, disability, age etc can cover workplace discrimination (failure to give promotion, dismissal or giving the employee unpleasant tasks). Students could be similarly victimised by an institution or an individual working in one by, for example, refusal of application or unfair marking.
Widening participation in higher education denotes systematic efforts to change and develop the ways in which universities and colleges work. The purpose of the efforts is to ensure that universities and colleges can meet the learning needs and aspirations of individuals or groups whose experiences or circumstances mean that they have not participated fully in higher education in the past, or are unlikely to in the future. These groups or individuals are often referred to as being from a non-traditional background. In this context, a non-traditional background is a term used to describe a person who would not ordinarily enter higher education.
In light of the changes to higher education funding, it is likely that widening participation strategies will also target those from low-income backgrounds, as it is felt that such individuals face more barriers to higher education than other groups.
Work-life balance is about adjusting working patterns and developing initiatives, policies and procedures to enable employees to get their jobs done and at the same time provide flexibility to manage personal and family responsibilities, and pursue activities outside work. Work-life balance is achieved when an individual’s right to a fulfilled life inside and outside paid work is accepted and respected as the norm, to the mutual benefit of the individual, the institution and society.
From an employee viewpoint, work-life balance is the dilemma of managing work obligations and a personal life, while achieving success and satisfaction within both. Many people struggle to maintain a balance between their work and home responsibilities, and other interests. This juggling process can have an adverse effect on the ability of employees to do their work effectively and on their general health and well-being. Women, in particular, are affected because they continue to be the primary carers for young children and elderly or disabled relatives, in addition to bearing the brunt of domestic labour alongside their work commitments. Work-life balance from the employer viewpoint involves the challenge of creating a supportive company culture where employees can focus on their jobs while at work. Many employers are developing a range of options such as flexi-time, job sharing, time off in lieu, and term-time working in order to create a more flexible workplace.
Xenophobia is a prejudice based on an extreme dislike or irrational fear of foreigners. It is also often associated with a dislike of cultures, religions and ways of life of people who live in other countries. It is different from racism in that racism is also about some racial groups asserting and exploiting their power over other racial groups.
A form of policing that allows no crime or anti-social behaviour to be overlooked.