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Equality Act 2010  

The Equality Act - October 2010 Useful information for Employers

The Equality Act became law on Friday 1st October 2010 replacing most of the previous discrimination legislation. The new act applies to the provision of services as well as employment.

The objective of the act is promoting equality for all by preventing discrimination under several protected characteristics Age, Disability, Gender Reassignment, Marriage and Civil Partnership, Pregnancy and Maternity, Race, Religion or Belief, Sex and Sexual Orientation.

Listed below are some of the important factors:
    Disability - A person has a disability if she/he has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on that person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. This includes things like using a telephone, reading a book or using public transport. Indirect discrimination also covers disabled people and it is discrimination to treat a disabled person unfavourably because of something connected with their disability.
    • Discrimination -
    Associative Discrimination - Direct discrimination against a person because they have an association with someone with a particular protected characteristic. It already applies to race, religion or belief, and sexual orientation and is now to be extended to cover age, disability, gender and gender reassignment. Direct Discrimination - against someone because they think they possess a particular protected characteristic. Indirect Discrimination - Can occur when you have a rule or policy that applies to everyone, but disadvantages a particular protected characteristic.
    Harassment - Unwanted behaviour that has the purpose or effect of violating a person's dignity or creates a degrading, hostile, humiliating, intimidating or offensive environment. Employees will be able to complain of behaviour they find offensive, even if it is not aimed at them and they need not possess the relevant characteristic themselves. Harassment from a Third Party already applies to sexual harassment, but is now extended to apply to the other protected characteristics. Employees can now complain of behaviour they find offensive even if it is not directed at them.
    Medical Assessments - In the Equality Act 2010, it limits the circumstances when employers can ask pre-employment health-related questions before offering a job.
    Religion / Belief Organisations - An organisation founded on an ethos based on a religion or belief. Faith schools are one example of a religion or belief organisation. If the job seeker does not follow a defined religion or do not have one at all they are protected as Religion also includes "a lack of religion".
    Transsexual Person - Refers to a person who has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment. This may be a woman who has transitioned or is transitioning to be a man, or a man who has transitioned or is transitioning to be a woman. The law does not require a person to undergo a medical procedure to be recognised as a transsexual. They now get new protection and it will be discrimination to treat transsexual people less favourably for being absent from work because they propose to undergo, are undergoing or have undergone gender reassignment than they would be treated if they were absent because they were ill or injured.
    Victimisation - Subjecting a person to a detriment because they have done a protected act or there is a belief that they have done a protected act i.e. bringing proceedings under the Act; giving evidence or information in connection with proceedings under the Act; doing any other thing for the purposes or in connection with the Act; making an allegation that a person has contravened the Act.


Action to consider:
    Recruiting New Staff: Review your organisation's recruitment process and procedures to remove inappropriate pre-employment medical questions. Review application forms and if applicable, discontinue issuing a blanket 'pre-employment medical questionnaire' to all job applicants if you currently do so. Ensure that line managers and managers responsible for recruitment are trained on the implications of the Equality Act.
    Possible Harassment Situations: Review policies on how employees might encounter harassment from third parties and how policies and procedures might be adapted to prevent it occurring.
    Single Equality Duty for Public Sector Employers: Check whether your organisation is affected by the single equality duty for public sector employers. From April 2011 all public sector organisations will be under a single equality duty to demonstrate that they are achieving equality in their workforce across all the protected characteristics.
    Pay Secrecy Clauses: Remove any pay secrecy clauses from contracts of employmen new limitations on employers asking pre-employment health about health and disability before deciding whether to offer employment.
    Reporting Procedures: Review how reporting procedures can be improved so that you can keep track of third party harassment. Also be aware that employees can complain of harassment even if the harassment was not aimed at him or her, or the employee doesn't possess the protected characteristic themselves.
    Associative Discrimination: Review procedures and policies to avoid associative discrimination claims. Line managers and recruitment personnel must be aware of how to deal with staff under anti-discrimination laws, and of how a characteristic of an employee's relative can also be relevant.
    Absenteeism: Take account of the full reason why an employee is absent before issuing a warning. For example the member of staff might be undergoing transsexual treatment.
Additional information:
The Act covers England and Wales, and Scotland with the exception of section 190 (improvements to let dwelling houses) and Part 15 (family property).
The Act does not apply in Northern Ireland, with the exception of section 82 (offshore work), section 105(3) and (4) (expiry of Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002) and section 199 (abolition of presumption of advancement).
Any specific duties imposed by a Minister of the Crown, Scottish Minister or Welsh Minister to enable better performance in relation to the Public Sector Equality Duty will apply to England, Scotland and Wales individually.

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