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'Single occupancy is not allowed' - Discrimination?

View profile for Maria Chadwick
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Single occupancy is not allowed - Discrimination?

It has recently come to light in the media that a widowed grandmother, aged 58, whose husband died last year of cancer, was turned away from a caravan park in Norfolk because she is single. Unfair? Yes. Insensitive? Yes. But is this discrimination under the Equality Act 2010?

Annette Gration from Skegness, Lincolnshire, regularly enjoyed motorhome holidays with her husband Phil, before he passed away from cancer last July aged 59.

Annette was encouraged to take a trip in her motorhome by friends in the aftermath of her husband’s death. However, after driving for two hours, it is reported that she was refused entry to the caravan site for her pre-booked two night stay because she was single.

Legal Standpoint

Under section 8 of the Equality Act 2010, a person has the protected characteristic of marriage or civil partnership if they are married or in a civil partnership.

In this case, the question arises as to whether a person can have a protected characteristic and therefore be afforded protection from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010,  if they are not married or in a civil partnership.

Human Rights Act

In the case of (A Child)(Adoption: Unmarried Couples) [2008] UKHL 38, an unmarried couple argued that they should be treated as if they were a married couple for the purposes of adopting a child. The majority decided that being unmarried was a ‘status’ for the purposes of article 14 of the convention and that the couple had been subject to unfavourable treatment as a result. Therefore it follows that being single is a ‘status’ under the European Convention of Human Rights.

Equality Act 2010

However, despite this, a single status is not currently recognised as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. Therefore, as the law stands, it seems that it would be difficult to stretch the definition of section 8 to bring a claim for discrimination for a single person under this Act. 

If you would like further advice, or if you believe you have been discriminated against contact the Stephensons discrimination team on 0345 122 8665.