Unlawful discrimination occurs when someone is treated less favourably because of a protected characteristic. The Equality Act defines discrimination as:
Direct Discrimination: this occurs when a person is treated less favourably because of a protected characteristic, compared to how someone without that characteristic would be treated. This includes discrimination based on association (i.e. because of a protected characteristic of someone they are associated with, such as a partner or child), and discrimination based on perception (where someone is perceived to have a particular protected characteristic, even if this is not the case). Direct discrimination on the grounds of age can sometimes be objectively justified if it can be shown to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
Indirect discrimination: this occurs when a provision, criterion or practice appears neutral but has the effect of placing people with a particular protected characteristic at a disadvantage, when compared to others without that characteristic. Indirect discrimination is potentially lawful if the provision, criterion or practice can be shown to be objectively justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
Harassment: this is defined as unwanted conduct that has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for a person, or of violating their dignity.
Victimisation: this occurs when a person is treated less favourably because they have asserted their legal rights under the Equality Act or have supported someone else who has done so.
In addition, failing to make reasonable adjustments and discrimination arising from a disability are specific forms of disability-related discrimination.