Equality Act 2010 - What I need to know

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Equality Act 2010 - What I need to know

Post by iih » Fri Feb 24, 2017 2:44 pm

Equality Act 2010: What do I need to know?

The majority of the Equality Act commenced on 1 October 2010. It replaces previous legislation:

• Equal Pay Act 1970 (special rules apply here regarding implementation dates)
• Sex Discrimination Act 1975
• Race Relations Act 1976
• Disability Discrimination Act 1995
• much of the Equality Act 2006
• Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003
• Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
• Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
• Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 (where applicable, as subsequently amended), plus other ancillary pieces of legislation.

Each person in the UK now has nine legally protected characteristics:

1. Age.
2. Disability.
3. Gender reassignment.
4. Pregnancy and maternity.
5. Race (nationality, national origin, skin colour, and ethnicity)
6. Religion or belief (and philosophical belief or non-belief)
7. Sex (e.g.: male, female gender)
8. Sexual orientation.
9. Married or in a civil partnership

The Equality Act is a mixture of rights and responsibilities that have:

Stayed the same – for example, direct discrimination still occurs when "someone is treated less favourably than another person because of a protected characteristic".

Changed – for example, employees will now be able to complain of harassment even if it is not directed at them, if they can demonstrate that it creates an offensive environment for them.

Been extended – for example, associative discrimination (direct discrimination against someone because they associate with another person who possesses a protected characteristic) will cover age, disability, gender reassignment and sex as well as race, religion and belief and sexual orientation.

New Types of Discrimination – Definitions

Discrimination by association - This is direct discrimination against someone because they associate with another person who possesses a protected characteristic.

Perception discrimination - This is direct discrimination against an individual because others think they possess a particular protected characteristic. It applies even if the person does not actually possess that characteristic.

Harassment - Employees will now be able to complain of behaviour that they find offensive even if it is not directed at them, and the complainant need not possess the relevant characteristic themselves.

Third party harassment – Employers are now potentially liable for harassment of employees by people (third parties) who are not employees of the company, such as customers or clients. Employers are only liable when harassment has occurred on at least two previous occasions, they are aware that it has taken place, and have not taken reasonable steps to prevent it from happening again.

Key Changes

Pre-employment health related checks - Employers are prevented from using pre-employment health questionnaires except in very limited circumstances. In a nutshell, organisations cannot ask about the health of the applicant before work is offered.

This has been introduced to eliminate the potential for discrimination at the application stage where it was felt that all too often unjust assessments were made based on disclosed medical conditions (especially mental health conditions) that unfairly prevented suitable applicants from progressing to interview.

Employers can only ask questions about health if it is intrinsic to the work concerned, e.g. manual lifting for warehouse work involving handling of heavy items. The question would then be specific e.g. “do you have a medical condition that will prevent you from lifting heavy objects?”

Pay secrecy - The Act makes it unlawful for you to prevent or restrict your employees from having a discussion to establish if differences in pay exist that are related to protected characteristics. It also makes terms of the contract of employment that require pay secrecy unenforceable because of these discussions. An employer can require their employees to keep pay rates confidential from people outside the workplace, for example a competitors.

Examples of types of discrimination

Discrimination by association - June works as a project manager and is looking forward to a promised promotion. However, after she tells her boss that her mother, who lives at home, has had a stroke, the promotion is withdrawn. This may be discrimination against June because of her association with a disabled person.

Perception discrimination - Jim is 45 but looks much younger. Many people assume that he is in his mid 20s. He is not allowed to represent his company at an international meeting because the Managing Director thinks that he is too young. Jim has been discriminated against on the perception of a protected characteristic.

Harassment - Paul is disabled and is claiming harassment against his line manager
after she frequently teased and humiliated him about his disability. Richard shares an office with Paul and he too is claiming harassment, even though he is not disabled, as the manager’s behaviour has also created an offensive environment for him.

Third party harassment - Chris manages a Council Benefits Office. One of his staff, Frank, is gay. Frank mentions to Chris that he is feeling unhappy after a claimant made homophobic remarks in his hearing. Chris is concerned and monitors the situation. Within a few days the claimant makes further offensive remarks. Chris reacts by having a word with the claimant, pointing out that this behaviour is unacceptable. He considers following it up with a letter to him pointing out that he will ban him if this happens again. Chris keeps Frank in the picture with the actions he is taking and believes he is taking reasonable steps to protect Frank from third party harassment.


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