The Equality Act 2010


The Act brings together several separate pieces of legislation, in an effort to both simplify and strengthen the law on discrimination and inequality.

Most of the new Equality Act came into force on 1 October 2010 (though in general it does not apply to Northern Ireland).  The remainder of the provisions will come into force in April 2011.  The Act covers nine ‘protected characteristics’ or PCs:

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

organichr suggests that now would be a good time to update your HR policies, procedures and forms for compliance with the new provisions.  It’s a great opportunity too, to enhance staff development by raising awareness of these important issues.  Some of the changes are:

The objective justification test . . . it will be much more difficult for employers to justify treatment which in essence is less favourable because of a PC
Definition of disability . . . it will be simpler for all the parties involved such as employers, service providers and the individual suffering with the disability to understand
Disability related discrimination . . . disability related discrimination will be replaced by two new ways of claiming for disability discrimination – discrimination arising from disability and indirect discrimination
Discrimination by association and perception
  • Someone is treated less favourably than another person because of a PC = direct discrimination
  • Direct discrimination against someone because they associate with another person who possesses a PC = associative discrimination
  • Direct discrimination against someone because others think they possess a particular PC = discrimination by perception
Enquiries made prior to employment . . . it is no longer valid for a blanket approach of an employer asking about the health of a job applicant either before offering work to an applicant, or before including an applicant in a pool of shortlisted candidates; it’s likely that you can ask candidates if they need any reasonable adjustments to do the job but their answers must not influence your selection decision – however, once having offered the job you are free to ask a health-related questions
Transparency . . . an obligation on public authorities to report on their disability employment rate
Dual discrimination . . . permitting discrimination claims to be pursued on the basis of a combination of two PCs
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