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Protected Grounds

In Scotland there are 6 protected grounds of equality which we share with citizens in the rest of Britain, and one which is purely promoted in Scotland. Each of these grounds has a law or laws which relate to it, and they all have different circumstances in which the protection is provided.

The six grounds are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Religion & belief
  • Sexual Orientation

The seventh ground is social origin – this is provided under the Scotland Act 1998 which defines equal opportunities as “the prevention, elimination or regulation of discrimination between persons on grounds of sex or marital status, on racial grounds, or on grounds of disability, age, sexual orientation, language or social origin, or of other personal attributes, including beliefs or opinions, such as religious beliefs or political opinions” and requires the Scottish Parliament and Government to promote equal opportunities on all of these grounds.

The table below shows the different circumstances in which the different grounds are protected:

table showing

Law matrix (click for full image)

You can see that gender, disability and race have the highest level of protection covering education & training, goods, facilities and services, employment and a duty to promote equality on those grounds.   Social origin and Age have the lowest level of protection, age being only in relation to employment, and social origin being only a duty on the Scottish Parliament and Government to encourage equality on grounds of social origin.

The particular laws which apply to each of these grounds are:
Age – Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
Disability – Disability Discrimination Act 1995
Gender – Sex Discrimination Act 1975, Equal Pay Act 1970
Race – Race Relations Act 1976
Religion & belief – Employment Equality (Religion & Belief) Regulations 2003, Equality Act 2006 Part 2
Sexual Orientation – Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007

The Human Rights Act 1998 also provides protection from discrimination. Article 14 provides that “the rights and freedoms set forth in this convention shall be enjoyed without discrimination on grounds of sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.” This is not an exhaustive list so issues like disability, sexual orientation or others would be covered by “or other status”. This also leaves scope for the article to be re-interpreted as society changes.

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