Equality Act 2010
As an employer, your obligations will remain largely the same. However the Act does strengthen some particular aspects of equality law. As a result, you may need to reconsider some of your policies and practices.
Note that the characteristics protected under equality law will remain the same as currently. These are:
- gender reassignment, which covers transsexual people
- marriage and civil partnership
- pregnancy and maternity
- race, which includes ethnic or national origins, colour and nationality
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation
Currently you mustn’t discriminate against someone:
because they associate with another person, and
the discrimination is because of that other person’s race, religion/belief or sexual orientation
From 1 October 2010, this will also cover age, disability, gender reassignment and sex.
It’s unlawful for a person to discriminate against an individual because that person (wrongly) believes that the individual possesses one of the following protected characteristics: age, race, religion/belief and sexual orientation.
This will be extended to cover disability, gender reassignment and sex.
Disabled people will become protected from indirect discrimination. This means that it will be unlawful to have a policy which applies to everyone but particularly disadvantages disabled people.
However, you may be able to justify indirect discrimination if you can show it’s a fair and reasonable way of achieving a legitimate aim.
The Act also introduces protection from “discrimination arising from disability” that occurs when a disabled employee is treated unfavourably because of something connected to their disability, such as a guide dog.
Pre-employment health questions
The Act will limit the circumstances when you can ask health or disability-related questions during recruitment.
The Act will make you potentially liable for harassment of your employees by people (third parties) who are not your employees, eg customers.
This already applies to sex but the Act will extend the protection to age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, and sexual orientation.
A transsexual person will now be protected even if they are not under medical supervision. In addition transsexual people will be protected from indirect discrimination.
It will be unlawful to take action against an employee for discussing their pay in an effort to find out if there is a connection between pay and a protected characteristic.
Government Equalities Office 10.2010