A general guide on how you are protected from discrimination under the Equality Act and what your rights are.
The Equality Act 2010 is the law that protects you from discrimination. It also gives you the right to challenge discrimination.
You're protected by the Equality Act if you have certain protected characteristics. Disability is one of these protected characteristics. Mental health problems may be considered a disability.
The Equality Act protects you from discrimination when you:
- Apply for work, when you're in a job, and when you leave it. There's more information on our pages on discrimination at work
- Deal with organisations carrying out public functions such as tax collection and crime investigation
- Are in education, including in school, college or university
- Buy or rent property
- Join some private clubs and associations
- Use services such as shops, restaurants, hospitals, leisure centres, buses and trains. Theis could be free services, or services you pay for. It also covers services provided by private companies and services provided by government, local councils and charities
You don't have to have a particular mental health condition to get protection under the Equality Act. And you don't need a diagnosis. But you will need to show that your mental health problem is a disability.
Mental health problems that could be covered under the Equality Act include:
'Protected characteristics' is the name for the nine personal characteristics that are protected from discrimination under the Equality Act.
- disability (this can include mental health problems)
- gender reassignment
- marriage and civil partnership
- pregnancy and maternity
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation.
See our pages on disability discrimination for more information.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
These are organisations whose role is of a public nature. This includes:
- NHS hospitals and employees
- local authorities and their employees
- some nursing and personal care accommodation providers
- prison staff
- courts and tribunals, including Mental Health Tribunals
- government departments and their employees
- statutory bodies and their employees (for example the Information Commissioner’s Office).
Public sector equality duty
This is the legal duty which public authorities like councils, NHS hospitals and government departments have to follow. It means they have to consider how their policies and practices affect people with protected characteristics, like people with mental health problems.
Private or voluntary organisations also have to follow the public sector equality duty when they carry out a public function on behalf of public authorities. For example, a private firm that is employed by a local council to collect council tax arrears needs to follow the public sector equality duty.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
This information was published in October 2023. We will revise it in 2026.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.