Other criteria of discrimination

In addition to ‘racial criteria’, religious or ideological beliefs, disability, age and sexual orientation, Unia is also competent to deal with other discrimination grounds. A separate institute has been set up in Belgium for the criterion gender: the Institute for the Equality of Women and Men (Instituut voor de Gelijkheid van Vrouwen en Mannen/Institut pour l’Égalité des Femmes et des Hommes). There is no government body or agency in Belgium which has been assigned specific competence for the criterion language.

State of health

A woman is refused outstanding balance insurance because she had a kidney transplant 15 years ago; a person applying for a nursing course who contracted hepatitis C in the past, has their application turned down; a person with cancer isn’t accepted on a short training course owing to their state of health; etc.

By state of health, we mean the previous health status or medical history, the current state of diagnosed physical or mental illness or the future or reasonably foreseeable state of health.

Cases of discrimination based on state of health must be examined in view of the worker’s ability to perform their job and any possible reasonable accommodations that must be made, in the case of chronic illnesses.

The criterion ‘state of health’ is concerned with diseases and disorders that are short-term in nature. Chronic or degenerative diseases and mental health issues can also fall under the criterion ‘disability’.


A landlord requires potential tenants to have a permanent contract and an income of EUR 2000; a landlord refuses to rent out their property to ‘blacks, non-Belgians and insolvent persons’; etc.

By wealth, we mean the fact of having financial means, whatever the origin.

This form of discrimination most frequently occurs indirectly as regards housing (e.g.: refusal to rent to people on benefits or receiving unemployment benefit).

Physical characteristics

An organisation is reluctant to take on a salesperson because he/she has a prominent birthmark; the company asks its recruitment agency only to select ‘slim’ candidates; etc. 

Within the definition of the concept of physical characteristics, we include innate characteristics or ones that have appeared independently of a person’s will (e.g.: birthmarks, burns, surgical scars, mutilations, etc.), which are stigmatising or potentially stigmatising for the person.

Consequently, tattoos, piercings, hairstyles or other such characteristics aren’t considered as a physical characteristic.

Civil status

An owner refuses to rent out their apartment to a single man; a woman with three children is not taken on for a job because her employer assumes that she will be unable to manage a job which entails lots of overtime and evening work; etc.

By ‘civil status’ we mean a person’s marital status. Comparable statuses, such as civil partnership or de facto cohabitation, also fall within this definition.

Household composition

A landlord wants to rent only to families and not to friends who are cohousing; etc.

The discrimination ground 'household composition' only appears for the time being in the Walloon text, to which it was added in 2019. By 'household composition', the legal text targets "people living in a common housing'. It can refer both to someone who usually lives alone and to people who live together, whether they are related or not.

Political beliefs

An employee is dismissed because he is a member of an extreme right-wing political party; a childminder refuses to accept a child because of the political beliefs of the parents; an employee is overlooked for promotion after he is seen taking part in an extreme left-wing demonstration; etc.

By ‘political beliefs’ we mean the fact that someone endorses a particular political school of thought, without having to be a full member of a political party.

Only identity-based organisations may ask candidates to endorse the ethics of the organisation. For example, a political party may expect its policy staff to become members of the party because they have access to sensitive strategic information.

Trade union beliefs

An employee is not promoted because he is a trade union representative; a colleague is bullied because he is a member of a trade union; etc.

By ‘trade union beliefs’ we mean that someone endorses the idea of trade unions though without actually having to be a member of a union. Trade union membership is protected by the antidiscrimination legislation. This protection not only extends to having particular trade union beliefs, but also to membership of a trade union and the associated activity.


A student is not given a holiday job in a company because he has no relatives already working in that company; a job applicant is not taken on because her name is linked to a well-known murderer; etc. 

By ‘birth’ we mean the origin of one of the parents. Unequal treatment based on a characteristic of one or both parents or of the children is prohibited.

Social origin or condition

A job applicant is not selected because their parents are working class; an employee is bullied because his family has an aristocratic background; etc.

'Social origin’ refers to belonging to ‘a certain social class (e.g. nobility)’. 'Social condition' refers, for example, to the situation of homeless people, jobseekers, illiterate people.