Marriage and Civil Partnership Discrimination Solicitors

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Marriage and Civil Partnership Discrimination Solicitors

Our employment law team have considerable experience in advising employees on the law relating to marriage and civil partnership discrimination, including unfair treatment and victimisation. In some cases, an obvious comment, witnessed, may lead to a claim, but discrimination is often more subtle and difficult to prove.  Therefore, advice should be sought from specialist solicitors in this area.

IBB Law’s employment law team can provide clear, practical guidance on all areas of unlawful discrimination. Our team includes some of the region’s top ranked employment lawyers with decades of experience representing employees of all levels.

For gender reassignment discrimination advice and representation, please contact our experienced employment solicitors today on 03456 381381 or email your details to

What is marriage and civil partnership discrimination?

The Equality Act 2010 (EqA) prohibits discrimination against individuals in the areas of employment, education, and the provision of goods, facilities and services for a protected characteristic (i.e. age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation).

Whether you are an employee, a worker (engaged under a contract personally to execute work or labour), or a contractor (whose labour is supplied by your employer to another person) you are legally protected. You have rights whatever your length of service and whatever hours you work.

Marriage covers any formal union which is legally recognised in the UK as a marriage, which includes marriage between a man and a woman and between a same-sex couple.

A civil partnership is only between same-sex partners under the Civil Partnership Act 2004.

Single people and people in relationships outside of marriage or civil partnership (whether or not they are cohabiting) do not have this characteristic. People who share the protected characteristic of marriage and civil partnership are those people who are married or are civil partners.

What is direct marriage and civil partnership discrimination

Direct marriage and civil partnership discrimination occurs where because of your marriage and civil partnership, you are treated less favourably than a person who is not married or a civil partner.

Less favourable treatment means a detriment of a kind that a reasonable person would or might take the view that in all the circumstances you have been disadvantaged.  An unjustified sense of grievance cannot amount to a detriment.  It is not necessary to demonstrate some physical or economic consequence.

For example:

  • an employer’s accommodation policy requires that married couples nominate one of them as head of household. The wife nominated herself which resulted in her being entitled only to family accommodation, at an additional cost, and not to single accommodation as before. She already owned a family home with her husband. She simply wanted to be provided with the single accommodation that she would have been entitled to had he not got married. The employer’s assumption that the married couple must operate with one partner dependent on the other for the provision of a family home was inherently directly discriminatory.

Unlike other forms of discrimination, there is no perceived discrimination and no discrimination by association because of marriage and civil partnership.

Direct discrimination cannot be objectively justified, but an employer might be able to rely on an exception, perhaps by pointing to an occupational requirement to avoid liability.

What are occupational requirements?

The EqA sets out occupational requirement exceptions an employer might rely on when facing discrimination claims in respect of recruitment, access to promotion, transfer or training, or dismissal. Those relevant to marriage and civil partnerships are:

General occupational requirement – this is available where, having regard to the nature or context of the work, not being married or a civil partner is an occupational requirement.

Organised religion – this can apply where the employment is for the purposes of an organised religion. To comply with the doctrines of the religion or to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers, your employer might apply an occupational requirement that you are not be married or a civil partner.

What is indirect marriage and civil partnership discrimination?

Indirect marriage and civil partnership discrimination occurs where:

  • your employer applies to you a provision criterion or practice (PCP)
  • you are married or a civil partner
  • your employer applies (or would apply) that PCP persons who are not married or a civil partner
  • the PCP puts or would put you at a disadvantage when compared to other persons who are not married or in a civil partnership
  • the employer cannot justify the PCP by showing it to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

There will be no indirect discrimination if your employer’s actions are justified.  To establish justification, your employer will need to show that there is a legitimate aim (i.e. a real business need) and that the PCP is proportionate to that aim.  Justification must be on objective grounds with an objective balance between the discriminatory effect and the reasonable needs of your employer.

In other words, indirect marriage and civil partnership discrimination occurs where your employment is subject to an unjustified condition which because of your marriage or civil partnership, you find more difficult to meet.

For example:

  • an employer operates an annual sales incentive scheme where the top sales representatives enjoy a luxury holiday at a singles resort. All the sales team are single.  A new sales representative performs well in his first year and is invited to the resort. He objects on the basis that he is married, and a singles resort would not be appropriate.  His employer does not change the resort. This could be indirectly discriminatory due to his marital status.

In determining whether there has been a detriment, it will be necessary to establish a pool of people for comparison on a like-for-like basis of those that have and have not been affected by the PCP.

What about relationship at work policies?

Generally, an employer should not have a policy imposing a blanket ban on personal relationships at work, as this could amount to indirect discrimination against married couples or civil partners. An employer would need to be able to show that the policy was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. Such an aim may be the need to place restrictions on employees in a personal relationship (including married couples and civil partners) who work in the same team, or on the same project, or where one manages the other to safeguard against favouritism.

Can you have marriage and civil partnership harassment?

Unlike other forms of discrimination, there is no marriage and civil partnership harassment under the EqA.

What is victimisation?

Victimisation occurs where you are treated less favourably than another person whose circumstances are the same because you:

  • brought claim under the EqA
  • gave evidence or information in connection with a claim under the EqA
  • did any other thing for the purposes of or in connection with the EqA
  • alleged that your employer or another person has committed an act that contravenes the EqA.

Less favourable treatment means a detriment (see above).

What remedies are available for marriage and civil partnership discrimination?

If you are an employee, worker or job applicant who believes your employer (or another worker) has discriminated against you then you can bring an employment tribunal claim.

If you who believe that an organisation has discriminated against you in the provision of goods, facilities and services, you can bring a claim in the county court.

Tribunals and courts can award unlimited compensation, which can include an award for injury to feeling and financial loss because of the discrimination.

How long do you have to bring an employment tribunal claim?

An employment tribunal claim under the EqA relating to marriage and civil partnership discrimination must be received by a tribunal within 3 months of the complaining act (i.e. 3 months less 1 day).  This can be the last act in a series of detrimental acts over a period of time.  The time limit is a strict one and will only be extended in certain circumstances.

The time limit can be extended during Acas early conciliation, which must be started before the time limit has expired.

Please see our page Acas early conciliation.

Contact our specialist marriage and civil partnership solicitors today

IBB Law’s employment law specialists represent individuals at all levels no matter the size or sector of the company. If you feel that you have been subjected to unlawful discrimination, we can offer fast, reliable guidance on what to do.

Contact our specialist marriage and civil partnership discrimination solicitors today on 03456 381381 or email your details to

The material contained in this web page is provided for general purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice. Appropriate legal advice should be sought for specific circumstances and before action is taken.