Advertisements and marketing

An advertisement includes every form of advertisement or notice or marketing material, whether aimed at members of the public or a specialised audience, including:

  • in a newspaper or other publication
  • by television or radio
  • by display of notices
  • signs
  • labels
  • show-cards or goods
  • by distribution of samples
  • circulars
  • catalogues
  • price lists or other material
  • by exhibition of pictures
  • three-dimensional models or filmed material.

Most written and other material published by you is likely to count as an advertisement if its aim is to tell customers or service users about a service.

You can target advertising material at a particular group of people, including a group who share a particular protected characteristic.

For example:

  • A mortgage company advertises a product as particularly suitable for women by advertising that borrowers can take payment holidays if they take maternity leave.
  • A bar advertises in a newspaper mostly bought by lesbian or gay women and gay men.
  • A barber has flyers printed only advertising haircuts and listing prices for men.
  • A community organisation makes it clear on its website that the lunch club it runs is aimed at people from a particular ethnic background.
  • A sporting club advertises that particular sessions are targeted at introducing disabled people to its sport.

But, unless your services are covered by one of the exceptions to equality law, your advertisement must not tell people that, because of a particular protected characteristic, they cannot use the service, or would not be welcome to use the service, or would receive worse terms in using the service.

For example:

  • If someone advertising a service (for example, by putting a notice in a shop window) makes it clear in the advert that people from a particular ethnic group are not welcome as customers, this would amount to direct discrimination because of race against people who might have considered using the service but are deterred from doing so because of the advertisement.
  • A flyer for a nightclub offering women free admission while men are charged for entry would probably be unlawful.
  • An advertisement that said ‘unsuitable for disabled people’ would probably be unlawful.

However, you do not have to make reasonable adjustments in advertising your services.

For example:

If you advertise in a newspaper, you do not have to put out an equivalent advertisement on the radio just because disabled people with a visual impairment may not have been able to access the written advertisement.

Equality good practice: what you can do if you want to do more than equality law requires

Even though you do not have to make reasonable adjustments when you are advertising your services, you may want to think about advertising in ways that will be accessible to disabled people with a range of impairments, such as Easy Read information for people with a learning disability. Doing this will help more people to access your services.

More information

Last Updated: 21 May 2014