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Marriage and civil partnership

Marriage and civil partnership

Marriage is a union between a man and a woman or between a same-sex couple.

Same-sex couples can also have their relationships legally recognised as civil partnerships. Civil partners must not be treated less favourably than married couples (except in very limited circumstances where permitted by the Equality Act).

The law

According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Equality Act says you must not be discriminated against in employment because you are married or in a civil partnership.

Marriage and civil partnership means someone who is legally married or in a civil partnership. Marriage can either be between a man and a woman, or between partners of the same sex. Civil partnership is between partners of the same sex.

People do not have this characteristic if they are:

  • single
  • living with someone as a couple neither married nor civil partners
  • engaged to be married but not married
  • divorced or a person whose civil partnership has been dissolved.

The Act only protects you from discrimination at work because you are married or in a civil partnership.

In some specified circumstances an employer can refuse to employ you because you are married or in a civil partnership if the work is for the purposes of an organised religion, for example as a Catholic priest.

The harassment provisions that relate to other protected characteristics do not apply to marriage or civil partnership, but if you are subjected to hostile, intimidating, humiliating, degrading or offensive treatment because you are married or a civil partner you could bring a claim for direct discrimination if you can show that you have been treated worse than others who are not married/in a civil partnership.

Alternatively, you may be able to bring a claim for sexual orientation harassment.

Public resources for marriage and civil partnership

Please let us know if any of the links on this page are not working by emailing comms@prospect.org.uk so that we can either remove or fix them where possible.

Prospect resources for equality and diversity

Prospect provides advice and guidance on a range of equalities issues, which can be accessed under the Resources tab in the left-hand navigation menu. This includes links to guides, posters and leaflets etc.