Equality Policy Unit FAQs

What is meant by equality?

Equality is often described as treating everyone the same, but true equality means treating everyone differently in order to treat them the same.

What is the Equality Act 2010?

The Equality Act came into force on 1 October 2010. The Act brings together over 116 separate pieces of legislation into one single Act, that provides a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all. It simplifies, strengthens and harmonises the current legislation to provide a new discrimination law which protects individuals from unfair treatment. The grounds covered are:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • mariage and civil partnership
  • pregnacy and maternity
  • race
  • religion and belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

Who is protected?

Anyone who comes under any of the protected characteristics above is protected.  In addition there are provisions under the Act to offer protection to:

  • individuals who are perceived to be from one of the protected characteristics
  • individuals who are associated with someone from one of the protected characteristics.

Isn't equality and inclusion someone else's responsibility?

No, it is everyone’s responsibility to implement good practices, no matter what you do within the University whether you’re a member of staff, a student or visitor.

What is meant by harassment and victimisation?

Harassment can be defined as unwanted and unreciprocated offensive behaviour towards a person or group. Under the law, if the recipient feels harassed then they are. It does not matter whether or not the offensive behaviour was intended as a joke. Harassment can be persistent or an isolated incident towards one or more people.

Victimisation is a retaliation against someone because they have made a complaint or allegation of discrimination.

What is discrimination?

Discrimination could be direct or indirect, and both are covered by equality legislation.

  • Direct – Where one person is treated less favourably than another is, has been or will be treated in a comparable situation
  • Indirect – Where an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice will put persons at a disadvantage, compared with other persons
    Also included in discrimination are harassment and victimisation.

What form can harassment take?

  • Verbal Abuse
  • Jokes
  • Embarrassing and/or insensitive comments
  • Physical contact
  • Unwanted sexual advances

What form can victimisation take?

  • Deliberately ignoring someone
  • Gossip
  • Setting unattainable targets at work
  • Unfounded criticism

What is anti-discrimination?

This approach acknowledges that prejudice and stereotyping are part of everything that we do and say. By recognising personal views you can prevent discrimination happening both personally and through challenging others.

Does the University have an up-to-date Equality policy?

Yes. University Council approved the Equality and Inclusion (E&I) framework and Equality and Inclusion Strategy – the equality vision for Leeds, in November 2013. Click on the links above to read or download the policy and strategy.

I feel I'm being bullied - what should I do?

The University of Leeds is committed to creating an environment free from harassment, bullying or victimisation for all staff, students and visitors. Please see our Dignity and Mutual Respect Policy  for more details on bullying and harassment and the policies, procedures and support available.

I've been accused of bullying / harassment - what should I do?

The University of Leeds is committed to creating an environment free from harassment, bullying or victimisation.  Please see our Dignity and Mutual Respect Policy for more details on bullying and harassment and the policies, procedures and support available. You could also visit the University’s Mediation web page for more information.

What does BME stand for?

BME stands for Black and Minority Ethnicity, which includes members of the following British and international ethnic communities as identified under the Census. They include Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Indian other, Chinese, Asian other, Black African, Black Caribbean, other Black background, White and Asian mixed, White and African Caribbean mixed, other mixed background and other ethnic group.

What does LGBT stand for?

LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender, the term LGBT has been a positive symbol of inclusion. To find out more information or to  join the LGBT Staff Network visit our LGBT Staff Network page.

I have recently found out that one of my students is pregnant, what should I do?

Have a look at the University’s Policy on support for pregnant students and students with very young children This comprehensive policy offers guidance on, for example,

  • a flowchart of actions
  • summary of key responsibilities
  • the support available to staff members to help them to advise, or take a flexible approach to, a pregnant student

Is there any training available on Equality and Inclusion?

Yes. We have an e-learning training package which we encourage staff to complete, please visit our training pages for further details.

I hear colleagues mention Athena Swan round campus and in meetings, what is Athena Swan?

The Athena SWAN Charter encourages and recognises commitment to advancing women’s careers in higher education. It is managed by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) and funded by ECU, the Royal Society, the Biochemical Society and the Department of Health.

The Charter was launched in June 2005 and focused on academic roles in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM), before being expanded in 2015 to recognise work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law. It also changed to encompass professional and support roles and trans staff and students.  The Charter now takes into account work that addresses gender equality more broadly, not just activities that remove barriers to progression that affect women.   The Charter has grown consistently and over half of all higher education institutions that are active in STEMM subject areas are members. Athena SWAN awards, too, have gone from strength to strength.

The University has a dedicated Athena SWAN team to offer advice and support colleagues with their Athena SWAN submissions. For more information, visit:

To contact the University’s Athena SWAN team, email athenaswan@adm.leeds.ac.uk

We hope this page will answer some of your questions about equality and inclusion. If it does not, please contact us and we’ll try our best to help.