The Equality Act

In the United Kingdom, the Equality Act 2010 outlines nine protected characteristics that are safeguarded against discrimination. These characteristics ensure that everyone is treated fairly and equally. These are: 

  1. Age: This pertains to individuals of specific ages or age ranges (e.g., 32-year-olds or 18 to 30-year-olds)  
  2. Disability: A person is considered disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment significantly affecting their day-to-day activities  
  3. Gender Reassignment: This covers individuals who undergo or plan to undergo a process to change their sex  
  4. Marriage and Civil Partnership: Marriage refers to unions between a man and a woman or same-sex couples. Civil partnerships are legally recognised relationships for same-sex couples. Civil partners should not face less favourable treatment than married couples . 
  5. Pregnancy and Maternity: Protection extends to pregnant individuals and those in the post-birth period. Discrimination against breastfeeding women is also covered . 
  6. Race: Defined by colour, nationality, ethnicity, or national origins. Racial groups can include multiple distinct groups (e.g., Black British) . 
  7. Religion or Belief: Encompasses religious beliefs and philosophical convictions. A belief must significantly impact life choices to be included . 

These protected characteristics are essential for promoting equality and combating discrimination. 

The Equality Act and disability 

Disability discrimination is when you are treated less well or put at a disadvantage for a reason that relates to your disability in one of the situations covered by the Equality Act. 

In the Equality Act, a disability means a physical or a mental condition which has a substantial and long-term impact on your ability to do normal day-to-day activities. This is a protected characteristic as listed above.  

You are covered by the Equality Act if you have a progressive condition like a primary or secondary immunodeficiency, cancer, or sclerosis, even if you are currently able to carry out normal day-to-day activities. You are protected as soon as you are diagnosed with a progressive condition.  

The Equality Act does not list all the conditions that are covered. It is the principle of having a protected characteristic that counts.  

You are also covered by the Equality Act if you had a disability in the past. For example, if you had a mental health condition in the past which lasted for over 12 months, but you have now recovered, you are still protected from discrimination because of that disability. 

Disability and immunodeficiency 

Several parts of the Immunodeficiency UK website refer to someone with primary immunodeficiency (PID) or secondary immunodeficiency (SID) as having a disability. The word ‘disability’ is emotive and can seem like a stigma or label to some people. 

If you or your child have an immunodeficiency then you will be covered by the definition of disability in the Equality Act 2010. This doesn’t mean you need to consider yourself to be ‘disabled’, it just means that you have protection under the law from unfair treatment relating to your or your child’s medical condition. 

Many affected children and adults can claim Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Allowance and other benefits. 

Children affected may need a statement of special educational needs related to the way their condition affects them. This is because ‘disability’ is an umbrella term covering impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions. 

Here are the definitions of these terms and how they relate to having an immunodeficiency: 

An impairment is a problem in body function or structure – for a person with an immunodeficiency this is a faulty immune system. 

An activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action – for a person with an immunodeficiency, this may mean not being able to climb the stairs in their home because of lung problems. 

A participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations – for a child with an immunodeficiency, this may mean not being able to play in an area that has lots of fungus around, such as a playground with bark chippings. 

Further advice and support 

IPOPI supporting statement ‘Primary immunodeficiency is a cause of serious disability both in the paediatric and the adult patient’.  

Equality Advisory Support Service discrimination helpline – Citizens Advice 

Advice line: 0808 800 0082 

Open Monday – Friday 9am – 7pm; Saturday 10am – 2pm. 

Check if you’ve experienced discrimination – Citizens Advice 

Check if you’re protected from disability discrimination – Citizens Advice 

Updated 1st March 2024