Dr Saal Seneviratne

Psychiatric Assessments and the Equality Act 2010:

Understanding the 9 Protected Characteristics

Psychiatric assessments are evaluations of a person’s mental health conducted by mental health professionals, such as psychiatrists and psychologists. These assessments are important in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses, and can also be used in legal settings, such as determining a person’s fitness to stand trial. In the UK, psychiatric assessments are subject to the Equality Act 2010, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of certain characteristics.

Equality Act 2010

Discrimination Characteristics of the Equality Act 2010

The Act provides protection against discrimination based on any of the protected characteristics, including:

  • Direct discrimination: treating someone less favourably because of a protected characteristic.
  • Indirect discrimination: having a rule, policy or practice that applies to everyone but disadvantages people with a protected characteristic.
  • Harassment: unwanted behaviour related to a protected characteristic that violates someone’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
  • Victimisation: treating someone unfairly because they have made a complaint or helped someone else to make a complaint under the Act.


Protected Characteristics under the Equality Act 2010

The Act covers nine protected characteristics, which are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

The 9 protected characteristics  ensure fair treatment for all. Psychiatric assessments can diagnose conditions like depression or anxiety, cognitive assessments to evaluate memory and problem-solving skills (used in dementia cases), personality assessments to identify disorders like borderline personality disorder, and psychosocial assessments to analyse how social and environmental factors affect mental health, such as assessing the impact of trauma.

In Conclusion

Psychiatric assessments are an important part of the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses. The Equality Act 2010 ensures that everyone is treated fairly and equally, regardless of their personal characteristics, including those with mental illnesses. Mental health professionals must be aware of the 9 protected characteristics and ensure that their assessments are conducted in a fair and non-discriminatory manner.

If the expert is provided with basic information it will help in identifying mental health issues contributing to the misconduct and advising on treatment options available.