Equality, diversity and inclusion

Equality, diversity and inclusion

Equality diversity and inclusion

This page has been collated to provide advice for members to understand the legalities in relation to equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI). We have also provided some guidance in relation to best practice for employers and employees.

Key legislation – Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act (2010) harmonises and replaces previous legislation (such as the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995). The Equality Act (2010) covers:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Race
  • Religion or Belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity.

These are called ‘protected characteristics’. The Act extends some protections to characteristics that were not previously covered and also strengthens particular aspects of equality law.

The Equality Act (2010) prohibits discrimination (whether direct or indirect) against people who possess one of the protected characteristics. It also prohibits the harassment and victimisation of such people.

What is direct discrimination?

Direct discrimination takes place where a person treats another person who has a protected characteristic less favourably than they would treat others not possessing the protected characteristic. The following types of conduct are examples that will amount to less favourable treatment:

  • Not having an employee see a patient by reason of their race.
  • Less favourable treatment of a woman who is breast-feeding.

Certain conduct which on the face of it would amount to direct discrimination is, however, permitted by the Act. Some refer to this as positive discrimination.  The Act, for example, permits the following conduct:

  • where the treatment of a person possessing the protected characteristic of age is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim;
  • more favourable treatment of disabled people.

What is indirect discrimination?

Indirect discrimination occurs where a provision, criterion or practice is applied which is discriminatory in relation to protected characteristic. This includes conduct which is applied or would apply to persons who do not share the characteristic in question and conduct which puts or would put a person possessing a protected characteristic at a particular disadvantage.

Conduct which can be shown to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim is, however, permitted.

The provisions contained in the Act relating to indirect discrimination do not apply to the protected characteristics of pregnancy and maternity.

What is harassment?

Harassment occurs where a person is subjected to unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic which has the purpose or effect of violating dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. This can include unwanted conduct of a sexual nature or that is related to gender reassignment or sex.

The provisions contained in the Act relating to harassment do not apply to the protected characteristics of pregnancy and maternity and marriage and civil partnership.

What is victimisation?

Victimisation occurs where a person is subjected to a detriment by reason of carrying out one of the following acts:

  • brought or given evidence or information in proceedings brought under the Act;
  • the doing of something for the purposes of or in connection with the Act. This will include committing a breach of an equality clause or rule;
  • made an allegation that a person has contravened the Act.

However, the giving of false evidence or information, or the making of a false allegation is not protected by the Act if it is given or made in bad faith.

The Act covers a wide range of circumstances and contains detailed provisions prohibiting discrimination, harassment and victimisation in the following situations:

  • where services are provided to the public;
  • in relation to the disposal, occupation and management of premises;
  • in the workplace;
  • in schools and further and higher education institutions;
  • in relation to associations.

What is diversity?

Every culture, every nationality, every single person sees the world in a different way. Similarly, every culture, nationality, and person has different knowledge, perspectives, and points of view. When all of these different views are shared and considered together it enables better understanding and respect for each other’s differences, in life as well as the workplace. Driving innovation and creativity.

What is inclusion?

Inclusion is about how well the contributions, presence and perspectives of different groups of people are valued and integrated into an environment.

All employers should be aware, and make their employees aware, of the Equality Act 2010 and understand their responsibilities in providing equal opportunities to their staff and potential staff.

We recommend, as best practice, that employers Introduce an equality and diversity policy which includes a copy of the Equality Act 2010, along with your company’s statement on equality and diversity and expectations in relation to staff behaviour.

Your policy statement should include objectives and processes to ensure that all staff are treated equally and with respect, in relation to their individual characteristics, in all interactions, and should include protection from discrimination from patients too.

Processes should include how to raise a concern, and the responsible staff member who will manage the process.

An example of the wording that could be used in a company equality statement could include:

“At [insert practice name] all staff have the right to be free from bullying, harassment, unwanted behaviour and discrimination in relation to the Equality Act 2010. We commit to providing all staff with a safe working environment that provides an equal chance to develop and achieve their potential. We ask that all staff make themselves aware of the company’s policy on equality and follow protocols in place to raise any concerns.”

It is important all staff are made aware of the process to raise a concern and be encouraged to do so if they feel at all uncomfortable about a situation that may arise. In line with the Equality Act, every employee is entitled to a safe and fair working environment.

Recruitment of staff:

Best practice to show EDI, as part of the recruitment process, is to use an equality monitoring form. These can be completed at the time of interview. These forms enable employers to establish the diversity of applicants by gathering relevant information on protected characteristics.  An example Equality Monitoring Form can be found here.

NHS Obligations:

When practices have an NHS contract, this comes with the duty to accept NHS patients. However, it is still possible to refuse NHS services to a patient who is abusive and/or harasses staff. You should record in the patients record card the situation, action taken and provide them with advice in relation to where they can seek eye health care if the reason for their visit at the time is urgent.


To assist practices in educating patients on what is expected of them and what will not be tolerated in relation to EDI of staff providing them with eye health care, we have posters available here:

Further information on EDI:




ABDO discrimination and harassment report

ABDO Advice and Guidance
Position Papers
Optical Confederation

UK regulation & activity

More info
Northern Ireland
More info
More info

Useful links

Opticians Act and Amendments since 1989

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Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency

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GOC Practice Guidance

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GOC rules around Legislation

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Search the register for a Dispensing Optician or Optometrist

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