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Marital status - Workplace

It is against the law to discriminate against anyone in the workplace because of their actual or assumed marital status.

Marital status refers to whether someone is, or is not, single, married, divorced, widowed, separated or with a domestic partner. The term ‘domestic partner’ covers all couples, irrespective of their sex and sexual orientation.

Employees are protected from discrimination at all stages of employment including recruitment, workplace terms and conditions and dismissal

Example of marital status discrimination

A transport company with a mostly male workforce wants to employ an office manager. Rebecca is the best candidate but is refused the job because she is single and the manager thinks she will distract the other workers.

Are there any exceptions?

The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 includes some general exceptions. This means that discrimination may not be against the law in particular circumstances.


Employers may be vicariously liable for their employees’ acts of discrimination or sexual harassment. Employers can also be directly liable. Find out more about who is liable for discrimination and harassment.

Employers also have a positive duty to eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation as far as possible.

Complaints of discrimination made to the Commission are resolved through a process called conciliation. Find out more about our process for resolving complaints.


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