Core guidance: Parliaments, politicians, and political parties

Advice and Guidance

Who is this page for?

  • Individuals using a service

Which countries is it relevant to?

    • England

      England

    • |
    • Scotland

      Scotland

    • |
    • Wales

      Wales

What this list is for

This list tells you, in general, how you can expect people and organisations providing services and running political parties to treat you.

But to get a complete picture of how equality law applies in each situation, you should also read the information about how equality law is different for:

  • Parliaments 
  • Politicians 
  • Political parties

Make sure you know what is meant by:

  • age (this is not a protected characteristic in relation to parliaments and politicians, but is in relation to political parties)
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • pregnancy and maternity (which includes breastfeeding)
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation.

Then you will know how you fit into each of these protected characteristics.

View a detailed list of the protected characteristics

Because of a protected characteristic, a service provider:

  • Must not refuse to serve you or refuse to take you on as a service user. 

For example:

A politician refuses to answer a constituent’s letter asking for help because of their race.

  • Must not stop serving or working for you if they still serve or work for other service users who do not have the same protected characteristic. 

For example:

A member of a politician’s staff stops answering emails from a constituent who is a disabled person when it becomes clear that the problem the constituent is asking for help with is to do with the constituent’s use of mental health services.

  • Must not give you a service of a worse quality or in a worse way than they would usually provide the service. 

For example:

A guide at a parliament shortens the tour they are giving from its usual length and route when they realise that the group includes a transsexual person.

  • Must not give you worse terms of service than they would normally offer. 

For example:

By charging more for a service that is paid for

  • Must not put you at any other disadvantage.

A politician must not make it harder for someone to access their services. 

Equality law allows a service provider or a political party to treat disabled people more favourably than non-disabled people. The aim of the law in allowing this is to remove barriers that disabled people would otherwise face to accessing services.

For example:

  • A parliament offers a reduced rate to disabled people who buy tickets for tours of the building.

A service provider or political party is allowed to target what it does at people with a particular protected characteristic through positive action. The service provider must be able to show that the protected characteristic these people share means they have a different need or a past track record of disadvantage or low participation in the sort of activities the organisation runs. If a service provider is thinking about taking positive action, it must go through a number of steps to decide whether positive action is needed and what sort of action to take.

Remember, a parliament or politician may refuse you a service or offer you a different service because of a judgment about your needs as a service user. Or a political party may refuse you membership for a reason other than a protected characteristic.

For example:

A person asks an elected representative for help with a problem. When the representative checks where the person lives, they realise that the person is not their constituent. They refuse to help them but give them contact details of the representative in whose area the person actually lives. This is not unlawful discrimination as the refusal of the service is not because of a protected characteristic.

A political party refuses to allow someone to join because they were a vocal supporter of another party at a recent election, and the party is not satisfied that their views have changed since. This is not unlawful discrimination as the refusal of membership is not because of a protected characteristic.

The important question is whether what the service provider or political party has done is different because of an assessment of your needs as a service user or for a reason other than your protected characteristics. Or whether it comes within the definition of unlawful discrimination which is explained in the list.

The reason for the way the service provider or political party has acted will probably be important:

  • Did they do something because of a protected characteristic which:
    •  is yours, or
    • belongs to someone you are associated with, or
    • is a protected characteristic they incorrectly thought you had?
  • Or has what they have done had a worse impact on you and other people with the same protected characteristic? Can they objectively justify their actions?
  • Or if you are a disabled person, have you been treated badly because of something connected to (or as the law puts it, arising from) your disability? Or has the service provider or political party failed to make reasonable adjustments?
  • Or does what they have done come within any of the exceptions which are explained later in this guide?
  • If you believe that what they did was harassment, does it relate to a protected characteristic?
  • If you believe you have been victimised, what was the previous action to uphold your own or someone else’s equality law rights that has led to your worse treatment now?

If you want help in working out if the service provider or political party is acting within equality law, or to complain about what it has done, you can read more about how to do this at page what to do if you think you’ve been discriminated against. 

A service provider or political party can still tell you what standards of behaviour they want from you as a service user, member, associate or guest. For example, behaving with respect towards their staff and to other service users, members, associates and guests.

Sometimes, how someone behaves may be linked to a protected characteristic.  

If a service provider or political party sets standards of behaviour for their service users, members, associate members or guests which have a worse impact on people with a particular protected characteristic than on people who do not have that characteristic, they need to make sure that they can objectively justify what they have done. Otherwise, it will be indirect discrimination.

If they do set standards of behaviour, they must make reasonable adjustments to the standards for disabled people and avoid discrimination arising from disability. You can read more about reasonable adjustments. 

Check out: What does equality law mean for a service provider: Your responsibilities when delivering services

  • staff behaviour
  • advertisements and marketing
  • how people access services: face to face, at a particular place, using written materials, by the internet or over the phone.

You can read more about when an organisation is responsible for what other people, such as staff working for it. 

Make sure you know what is meant by:

  • age (this is not a protected characteristic in relation to parliaments and politicians, but is in relation to political parties)
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • pregnancy and maternity (which includes breastfeeding)
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation.

Then you will know how you fit into each of these protected characteristics.

 

Last updated: 15 Jul 2016

Further information

If you think you might have been treated unfairly and want further advice, you can contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service.

Phone: 0808 800 0082
Textphone: 0808 800 0084

You can email using the contact form on the EASS website.

Also available through the website are BSL interpretation, web chat services and a contact us form.

Post:
FREEPOST
EASS HELPLINE
FPN6521

Opening hours:

9am to 7pm Monday to Friday
10am to 2pm Saturday
closed on Sundays and Bank Holidays

Alternatively, you can visit our advice and guidance page.