THE EQUALITY ACT 2010- OVERVIEW

Peninsula Team

July 30 2010

After some uncertainty about the position of the Coalition government, the Government Equalities Office recently announced that the core employment provisions of the Equality Act 2010 will come into force in October 2010 in Great Britain (the Act does not extend to Northern Ireland). Other provisions will come into force at different times to allow organisations affected by the new laws to prepare for them.

The implementation timetable proposed by the previous Government was as follows:
October 2010 Core employment provisions
April 2011 Socio-economic duties 
Integrated public sector equality duty
Dual discrimination protection
 
2012  Ban on age discrimination in the provision of goods and services
 
April 2013 Gender pay reporting (if found to be necessary)

 The Equalities Office has not confirmed when, or if, the latter provisions, such as those relating to the socio-economic duty and gender pay reporting, will come into force.

This new Act replaces previous legislation (such as the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995) and aims to simplify and ensure consistency wherever possible.

The Equality Act 2010 covers the same groups that are protected by existing discrimination legislation – age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity (known as “protected characteristics” or “PCs”) - but extends some protections to groups not currently covered, and also strengthens particular aspects of discrimination law.

Whilst many of the fundamental principles of discrimination legislation are largely unaffected, some other rights and responsibilities will:

• Change – for example, employees will 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.

• Be 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.

• Be introduced for the first time – for example, the concept of discrimination arising from disability, which occurs if a disabled person is treated unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of their disability.

Consequently, some employers may need to review and change some policies and practices.

We published an overview of the main provisions of the Equality Act 2010 on 21st April 2010 in Issue 26 of the Bottom Line Express. In the run up to implementation, each Issue will contain a Masterclass article examining particular aspects of this important new legislation. The first elements to be addressed in the next Issue will be associative discrimination and perceptive discrimination.

For more information or advice on the Equality Act, call the Advice Service on 0844 892 2772

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