Marriage and civil partnership discrimination

The Equality Act 2010 says an employer must not discriminate against you because you are legally married or in a civil partnership.

Marriage and civil partnership (since January 2020) can be between a man and a woman or between partners of the same sex.

You do not have this protected characteristic if you are:

  • Single.
  • Living with someone as a couple but neither married to them nor their civil partner.
  • Engaged to be married.
  • Divorced, or if your civil partnership has been dissolved.

Your protection is linked to the status or "institution" of marriage or civil partnership, not because you are married to a particular person.

There are some situations in which an employer can refuse to employ you because you are married or in a civil partnership. It may be because the work is for the purposes of an organised religion for example, the role of a Catholic priest.

The harassment provisions that relate to other protected characteristics do not apply to marriage or civil partnership. However, 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 you have been treated worse than others who are not married or in a civil partnership. Alternatively, you may be able to bring a claim for sexual orientation harassment.

Same-sex married couples and civil partners have the same pension survivorship rights as heterosexual married couples.