UK: Scope Of Equality Act Widened To Cover Corporate Claimants

Last Updated: 16 November 2015
Article by Clare Gilroy-Scott

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has held that a limited company that was a member of an LLP could bring a claim alleging the LLP had directly discriminated against it based on the age of its principal shareholder in the case of EAD Solicitors LLP and Others v Abrams (UKEAT/0054/15).

Previously only individuals were considered to have the benefit of protection from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010) and legal practitioners have been left wondering whether this will open the flood gates with discrimination claims from corporate claimants. To fully understand the reasoning of the EAT and the potential impact of the decision, we set out the facts as follows:


  • Mr Abrams was a member of an LLP.
  • For tax reasons, Mr Abrams set up a limited company (of which he was sole director and shareholder) to take his place as a member of the LLP, and then he withdrew his membership.
  • The limited company, as a member of the LLP, was entitled to receive the profit share Mr Abrams would have received had he continued as member, and in return the company agreed to supply the services of an appropriate fee earner to the LLP. Though the parties expected that these services would be provided by Mr Abrams himself, there was no obligation that this would be the case. Consequently, Mr Abrams was neither an employee of the LLP, nor was he a worker, nor did he have any continuing contractual relationship with the LLP.
  • When Mr Abrams was a member of the LLP it had been agreed that he would retire at 62.
  • The LLP objected to the limited company continuing to offer Mr Abram's services once he had reached 62. Consequently, the LLP objected to the limited company continuing as a member of the LLP.
  • The limited company brought a claim in the Employment Tribunal that it had been directly discriminated against, having suffered detrimental treatment due to the protected characteristic (age) of someone with whom it was associated (Mr Abrams).
  • The Employment Tribunal allowed the claim, and the LLP then appealed to the EAT.

Decision of the EAT

The EAT dismissed the LLP's appeal based upon the following reasoning:

  • S.4 of the Limited Liability Partnership Act 2000 provides that a corporate body may be a member of an LLP. This was a well established principle by the time the EqA 2010 was drafted.
  • S.45(2) EqA 2010 provides that an LLP (A) must not discriminate against a member (B) as to the terms on which B is a member, by expelling B, or by subjecting B to any other detriment.
  • S.13(1) provides the definition of direct discrimination: A person (A) discriminates against another (B) if, because of a protected characteristic, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat others. The EAT held that 'another' plainly means 'another person'.
  • While the EA 2010 is silent on the definition of 'person', the Interpretation Act 1978 defines 'person' as including a body corporate, unless contrary intention appears in the Act. The EAT found no contrary intention in the EA 2010, and held that person may include a corporation. The EAT accepted the Claimant's argument that since it has long been recognised that that the discriminator can be a corporation, there did not seem to be any reason why the person on the receiving end of the discrimination must necessarily be an individual.
  • The EAT rejected the LLP's argument that since only an individual can have a protected characteristic, it follows that only individuals can be discriminated against. The EAT found on the contrary that the EqA 2010 does not protect individuals on the basis of their own characteristics but identifies discrimination as being detrimental treatment caused by/related to the protected characteristic.
  • The EAT reviewed case law demonstrating the long accepted principle that the protected characteristic does not have to be enjoyed by the person who is subject to the detrimental treatment.
  • The EAT reviewed the fact that s.27(4) EqA 2010 applies a specific exclusion, whereby to bring a claim for victimisation, the person subjected to a detriment must be an individual. However the EAT held that such an exclusion was only necessary to qualify the rest of the act under which the word 'person' is capable of including a corporation.
  • The EAT commented that protecting corporate bodies from discrimination would be 'entirely consistent' with EU provisions. In particular, the EAT noted the Race Discrimination Directive which recites the importance of member states providing protection for legal persons where they suffer discrimination on the grounds of the race or ethnicity of their members.
  • Finally the EAT considered various scenarios, contrary to public policy, which would have no legal redress were the appeal allowed, for example, a company being shunned commercially because it is seen to employ a Jewish or ethnic workforce.

The decision has undoubtedly considerably widened the scope of the EqA 2010 by evolving the concept of direct discrimination to cover corporate complainants but legal practitioners are divided as to its impact. It is possible that this decision has limited impact in terms of employment law as the provisions of the EqA 2010 covering discrimination at work rely upon the Claimant being in 'employment' (under a contract of employment or apprenticeship, or a "contract personally to do work") and it is difficult to envisage a company fulfilling these pre-requisites.

Notwithstanding this, it is a decision that should be noted by businesses. It is possible that this case could have a more significant impact in the commercial and property spheres than in the employment field, specifically in relation to the provision of goods, services or facilities, or the disposal of premises. After all, a non-natural person associated with individuals with protected characteristics could now sue in a whole host of discriminatory scenarios. For example, a refusal to sell premises to an LGBT rights charity, or a refusal to provide services to a company due to its owner's race could both fall within the new remit.

The case has been remitted back to the Employment Tribunal for a decision on the discrimination. We are left waiting for a decision on merits of the claim and how the tribunal addresses the question of compensation that could be awarded.

This article was written by Clare Gilroy-Scott, Senior Solicitor, Employment department with the assistance of Emily Kearsey, Trainee Solicitor.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.