There are clear rules an employer must follow to encourage diversity in the workplace in accordance with the Equality Act 2010.
The 2010 Equality Act introduced in October of that year was the single biggest piece of discrimination legislation ever created in the UK. It represented a cross-cutting framework to draw together, update, simplify, standardise and codify all the existing law in one place.
It covers the same characteristics that are protected by existing discrimination legislation but also extends some protections to groups not currently covered and strengthens particular aspects of discrimination law.
No employee or potential employee should be discriminated because of race, age, gender (including gender reassignment), disability, marital or civil partnership status, religious belief, pregnancy or maternity, or sexual orientation.
The Equality Act introduced many new rights and responsibilities to protect individuals from discrimination. The scope of discrimination law is both widened and reinterpreted in the Act.
Some legislation actually changed within the scope of the Act, such as that relating to harassment. In other ways, legislation was extended, for example in the area of associative discrimination.
Additionally legislation was introduced for the first time, such as the concept of discrimination arising from disability.
It is in these detailed changes that employers run the most risk of misinterpreting the new legislation and consequently falling foul of the law.
An employer should as a minimum comply with their equality obligations under the various pieces of anti-discrimination legislation. These are complex and it is highly recommended that expert advice is sought.