There are nine protected characteristics defined by the Equality Act.
Click the headings below to find out more about each of them and how we are committed to ensuring service users and staff who fall under one or more are protected from unfair treatment and prejudice.

Age

Sometimes negative assumptions can be made about people because of their age, particularly older and younger people, both in the way that they are treated as service users and as employees.

While we recognise that young people are essential to bring fresh perspectives and ideas and maintain the workforce over time, due cognisance must also be paid to the older group as they also have a wealth of valuable skills, knowledge and experience - all of which are important for a balanced workforce.

In our services, we are committed to making sure that no-one is discriminated against because of their age. We are continuing to develop services for working age adults and older adults that are available on the basis of need, not age. We also recognise that younger service users should have access to services that are supportive and appropriate to their own needs.

Some useful links:

Disability

By definition, a person is covered by the protected characteristic of disability if they have a physical and/or mental impairment which has what the law calls ‘a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’. There is no need for a person to have a medically diagnosed cause for their impairment; in effect the check is the impairment and not the cause.

Examples

Physical impairments which impact upon an individual such as arthritis, hearing or sight impairment (unless this is correctable by glasses or contact lenses), diabetes, asthma, epilepsy, HIV infection, cancer and multiple sclerosis, as well as loss of limbs or the use of limbs are covered.

It is important to note that HIV infection, cancer and multiple sclerosis are covered as a disability from the point of diagnosis.

Severe disfigurement (such as scarring) is covered even if it has no physical impact on the person with the disfigurement, provided the long-term requirement is met (see below).  

People who self-certify as blind or partially sighted, or who are certified as being blind or partially sighted by a consultant ophthalmologist, are automatically treated as disabled.

Mental impairment includes conditions such as dyslexia and autism, as well as learning disabilities such as Down’s syndrome, and mental health conditions such as depression and schizophrenia.

Our commitment 

As a mental health service provider, we are particularly committed to ensuring that the protections of the Disability Discrimination (Amendment) Act 2005 in relation to mental illness as a disability are provided to users of our services. 

We will;

tackle discrimination

continue to make sure that people who use our services, who have additional impairments (physical or sensory) or physical health conditions, receive a service of equal quality

In employment, we will;

actively promote a culture where the talents and experience of all disabled people are valued.

ensure that we provide the support and adjustments that all employees and potential employees require while employed within our Trust. 

Useful links

Religion and belief

The Equality Act 2010 says you must not be discriminated against because:

  • You are (or are not) of a particular religion.
  • You hold (or do not hold) a particular philosophical belief.
  • Someone thinks you are of a particular religion or hold a particular belief (known as discrimination by perception).
  • You are connected to someone who has a religion or belief (known as discrimination by association).

Under the umbrella of the Equality Act, religion or belief can mean any religion, where there is an identifiable, clear structure and belief system. This includes organised religions like Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism or Sikhism, and smaller religion like Rastafarianism or Paganism. Denominations or sects within religions may also be considered a religion.

Belief

‘Religious belief’ goes beyond beliefs about and adherence to a religion or its central articles of faith and may vary from person to person within the same religion.

A belief which is not a religious belief may be a philosophical belief, such as humanism or atheism. A belief need not include faith or worship of a god or gods, but must affect how a person lives their life or perceives the world.

For a belief to be protected by the Equality Act the belief must:

  • be genuinely held.
  • be a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on information available at the moment.
  • be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.
  • attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.
  • be worthy of respect in a democratic society.
  • be compatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

Cults and new religious movements may also be considered religions or beliefs. Belief means any religious or philosophical belief and includes a lack of belief.

The Act also covers non-belief or a lack of religion or belief.

Our commitment 

Our Trust has a multi-faith workforce providing services to a multi-faith population.

We recognise that it is important to take into account the personal needs of service users and staff of diverse religious and faith groups, and of people with no religious belief. This includes religious, cultural and dietary needs, which must be met in a sensitive and appropriate way.

We will engage with faith institutions and places of worship in helping us to have a better understanding around providing services that meet the specific needs of each group.

We are also committed to promoting an inclusive working culture where people can practice their religion or belief safely and without fear of harassment and discrimination.

Within the Trusts estate there are identified spaces provided for prayer and reflection.

More information

Further guidance in respect of religion or belief can be found at: www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/religion-or-belief

Sex and gender

Gender plays a very important part in the way people access mental health services, but this has often been over-looked by organisations in the past. Our Trust is committed to making sure that all service users, regardless of gender, have equal access to and equal benefits from our services.

Equally for our staff, we aim to make sure that there are no differences in the experiences of women and men which we cannot justify, and that there is no discrimination on the grounds of gender.

Useful links:

 

Race (including nationality and ethnicity)

The concepts of race and ethnicity have been discussed since the early 1970s.

Race describes physical characteristics, while ethnicity encompasses cultural traditions such as language and religion playing pivotal and socially significant roles in individual’s lives.

These aspects of our identity inform how we see ourselves and the world, how others see us, and how we relate to each other.

While organisations may have embraced change in respect of this protected characteristic, there are still inequalities that arise from behaviour or actions, albeit unconsciously at times, which result in discriminatory behaviour.

It has also been accepted that over a number of years, black and minority ethnic communities have not had mental health services delivered in a way that is appropriate to their needs. 

Delivering race equality in mental health care

In 2009, the government produced a publication titled - 'Delivering race equality in mental health care'. This is an action plan for reform inside and outside services, along with the Government's response to the Independent inquiry into the death of David Bennett.

A five-year action plan, for achieving equality and tackling discrimination in mental health services in England was produced. While this document and its actions have been superseded by newer pieces of wok, there is still substantial amount of work that needs to be undertaken which the Trust is continuing to work on.  

Our commitment

In our workforce, the black and minority communities are well represented when compared with the wider local population.

However, certain communities are underrepresented. Black and minority ethnic (BME) staff are underrepresented in certain occupations and at more senior levels in the organisation.

We are continuing to work to make sure our workforce represents our local population at all levels and across all occupations.

To continue our active engagement with the BME communities, we have established a BME network has been established.

Useful links

Sexual orientation and gender identity

It is estimated that between five and 10 percent of the UK population define themselves as gay and lesbian.

We recognise that lesbians, gays and bisexuals may experience prejudice, discrimination and disadvantage as a result of their sexual orientation.

Research shows that sexual orientation and gender identity play an important role in health inequalities, resulting in poor experience in the provision, and take up of health services by the LGBT community.

Research also shows that due to fear of discrimination, homophobia and ignorance:

  • LGBT community experience higher levels of mental ill health than heterosexual people.
  • Older gay, lesbian and bisexual people are five times less likely to access services than the general older population

Our commitment

The trust is committed to making sure all of our service users have equal access and benefits from our services regardless of their sexual orientation.

We will continue to ensure that our employment policies and practices are inclusive by creating a climate of tolerance and respect in the workplace, where all individuals feel safe to make their sexual orientation public if they choose to do so.

We also make sure that, wherever possible, our conditions of employment offer the same benefits to same-sex relationships as heterosexual relationships.

Unlawful sexual orientation discrimination happens when someone is treated less favourably due to their sexual orientation, their perceived sexual orientation, or the sexual orientation of those they associate with.

For staff and volunteers, our Trust also has an LGBT Network. This promotes activities and events (such as Gay Pride), facilitates meetings and is there to support staff through listening and acting on any LGBT queries or issues that they may have.

Useful links

Pregnancy and maternity

It's unlawful for an employer to dismiss you because you are pregnant or for reasons connected with your pregnancy or maternity leave.

It's also unlawful for your employer to deny you access to holiday pay, sickness pay training or any other contractual benefit that all employees are entitled to.

Being pregnany does not suddenly become less capable of doing your job.

When you are pregnant but have not yet started your maternity leave, you have the right to be treated equally.

We will:

  • offer the same training and promotion opportunities as other staff
  • allow the individual concerned  to keep the same duties and responsibilities once they are back at work