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Marriage & Civil Partnership

Do you know your rights?

Did you know that at work you can’t be treated unfairly compared to other people at work because you are married or in a civil partnership?  This is because Marriage & Civil Partnership is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act.

This means that you must have gone through a legal marriage or civil partnership ceremony, and still be in the marriage or civil partnership.  However, unlike many of the other protected characteristics, this protected characteristic only applies in employment situations. 


This unfair treatment is called discrimination. There are several types of discrimination, including direct and indirect discrimination.


Direct discrimination is when you are treated worse than someone who is single because you are in a marriage or civil partnership.  For example, an employer habitually gives Christmas day shifts which pay double to single people, as he believes that married people should spend Christmas day with their spouses.  Indirect discrimination is when an arrangement that affects everyone has an unfair effect on some people because they are married or in a civil partnership. For instance, a manager habitually takes his team out for drinks and dinner on a Friday evening for a “team bonding” session, and favours those team members who attend regularly, giving them better opportunities and more attention and training.  This would be indirect discrimination against married team members, who would be less likely to be able to go out with colleagues after work on Fridays.


There are some circumstances where it may be acceptable to discriminate against someone because they are married.  For instance, a religious organisation could require its priests not to be married.  


It’s important to know and understand equality law, but it can be complex. 

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