New Equality Act 2010
04 August 2010The new Equality Act 2010 will come into effect in October - businesses must make sure their policies are up to date.
The Equality Act aims to simplify and strengthen the current legislation to support progress on equality. Most of the changes the Act brings are due to come into effect in October 2010.
The Act replaces previous legislation such as the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and seeks to provide a comprehensive framework to protect individuals’ rights.
The same groups that were protected by previous equality legislation remain so, and some protection is extended to groups not previously covered.
The Act defines discrimination in terms of nine “protected characteristics”; age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and lastly sexual orientation.
The circumstances in which a person is protected against discrimination, harassment or victimisation because of protected characteristics are extended. Individuals who “associate” with others with certain protected characteristics are protected by the Act, for instance, people who are related to or who care for someone who is disabled. The protection given also includes perception in relation to certain protected characteristics (e.g. discrimination based on a belief that someone is gay or disabled or has a particular belief). Individuals will also able to claim if they have been directly discriminated against because of a combination of two relevant protected characteristics (though this provision is not coming into force in October 2010).
The new provisions include secrecy clauses preventing employees from discussing pay. Associative discrimination and discrimination on grounds of wrongly perceived protected characteristics are also made unlawful.
The changes include positive action in recruitment favouring under-represented groups in certain circumstances. Under the disability provisions, restrictions are to be put in place as to what can be asked about an individual’s health during the recruitment process. The Employment Tribunal is also given increased powers to make wider recommendations that may apply to the whole workforce against employers found to have discriminated against an employee.
It is important for businesses to be aware of the changes and to review and amend their current policies to ensure they reflect the changes.
ACAS has published a guide for employers:
The Government Equalities Offices has also published a series of guides which can be found at:
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