Socioeconomic background or status is not classified as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. However, this does not mean you do not have the right to access equal opportunities.
There are 14.5 million people in the UK living in poverty. This measure is based on a household income of 60% below the national medium after housing costs are deducted. Many people from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds or living in poverty face discrimination, stereotypes and prejudice when it comes to education and employment. This treatment is unfair and unacceptable.
What rights do I have?
Aspiring to Include wants to help you understand your rights as a person who comes from a disadvantaged socioeconomic background. No matter the status of your family’s wealth, education or employment, you have the right to equal access to education and employment opportunities.
Equality Act 2010
Socioeconomic status is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, however Part 1 contains what is referred to as “Socioeconomic Duty”. This socioeconomic duty requires public bodies and local council to adopt effective measures to address the inequality stemming from differences in socioeconomic status, education, occupation and place of residence.
However, successive governments since 2010 have failed to implement Part 1 as legally binding. This means that public authorities are not technically required to fulfil their socioeconomic duty.
Education is a human right and everyone in the UK should have equal access to education. Unfortunately, there is a clear correlation between child poverty and lower levels of educational outcome. Moreover, a teenager’s chance of attending university is still largely influenced by the level of education their parents obtained. Students attending state schools in the UK with highly educated parents are up to five times more likely to attend university than students whose parents have few qualifications.
While further education is not the only route into employment, attending university can significantly improve your chances of achieving a successful career in a number of industries. Indeed, certain professions require a university degree, such as doctors, nurses, lawyers and architects.
If you are the first in your family to explore further education, you may be able to receive support. This could include financial support through a scholarship or grant. For further information about attending university visit our guide to further education.
Unemployment and underemployment lie at the centre of poverty. There has been a significant shift in attitude and approach over the last few years and now many employers are seeking to diversify their workforces. This includes actively recruiting people from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds.
Everyone has the right to employment. Your right to access fair employment should not be dependent on your socioeconomic status. Under the Employment Rights Act 1966, workers have rights in relation to unfair dismissal, redundancy payments, protection of wages, zero-hour contracts, Sunday working, suspension from work, flexible working and the termination of employment.
While socioeconomic status is not classed as a protected characteristic, groups or individuals who belong to certain protected characteristics are overrepresented among the most socioeconomically disadvantaged in our society.
For example, risk of poverty is much higher for women, Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people and disabled people. Visit our guide to protected characteristics to understand more about your rights under UK law.