Blog: Thinking Beyond Protected Characteristics

This week, we launch Section 3 of Beyond Protected Characteristics: Thinking Beyond Protected Characteristics.

Throughout Spring 2024, we have been releasing resources in the first two sections of our series: ‘Beyond Protected Characteristics: The Equality Act (2010) in practice’.

  • Section 1  looked in detail at the Equality Act, the Protected Characteristics and how the Act can inform how we develop Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) policies.
  • Section 2 highlighted the different ways that the Equality Act and EDI policies can be brought to life in the day-to-day.
  • Section 3 highlights how simply relying upon the Equality Act when looking at your organisation’s approach to human rights and equalities is not always enough.  Instead, it’s important to take a wider approach to the experiences and backgrounds of the people you are working with to prevent unintended discrimination or poor practice.

This section includes case studies on:

  • Care-experience: Impacts, barriers and adjustments (IRISS)
  • Intersectionality in Accessibility and Communication (Scottish Ethnic Minority Deaf Charity)
  • Poverty and Participation in the Third Sector (Poverty Alliance)

Each case study provides insight into the disadvantage and barriers faced by people, and how third sector organisations can take these into consideration through everyday practices.

This is not to say that organisations must accommodate for every possible cause of disadvantage when developing policies and practices. Instead, we encourage organisations to reflect on what their community looks like, and who they might not be reaching, rather than solely relying on the list of protected characteristics that, whilst essential, may not fully reflect the needs of their community.

In other words, the Equality Act is a foundation to build from and should not be the only basis of any equalities approach, policies or procedures.

Some ways that organisations can better understand their communities, whether that be staff, volunteers and/or service users, are:

  • Conducting impact assessments. Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessments (ERHIAs) allow organisations to assess whose rights might be impacted by a policy or principle, and involve using evidence and research to inform decision-making. To find out more about EHRIAs, check out our free guide
  • Reviewing feedback mechanisms. You won’t know who’s facing barriers to participation if there’s no way for them to tell you.  Make sure that opportunities for feedback are easy to find and available in different formats, for example paper feedback forms, online surveys or contact forms.
  • Create opportunities for stakeholder engagement. Include a range of voices involved in decision-making at every level. Lived experience boards, staff working groups and shadow boards can all be useful methods for involving diversity of thought in strategic decision-making.

You can find Section 3 of Beyond Protected Characteristics: The Equality Act (2010) in Practice here.