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    Say “hello” to the Equality Act 2010 

    After much debate, the Equality Act 2010 will start coming into force from October 1.  So what does this legislation do and is it good news for employers?


    New law.  On April 8 the Equality Bill received Royal Assent and became the Equality Act 2010.  Its main provisions are expected to come into force from October 1 2010; as the Act makes sweeping changes, it will cause a massive shake-up.


    Streamline.  Firstly, it will consolidate ten pieces of discrimination legislation including the Equal Pay Act 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.  But this doesn’t mean that you can forget about them – or that employees lose any rights.  The protection that they offer will still exist, just in this single piece of legislation.


    New provisions.  In addition, the Act: (1) bans the use of pay secrecy clauses in employment contracts; (2) prohibits discrimination by association, i.e. those who are connected to a protected group, e.g. the parent of a disabled child; and (3) allows positive discrimination during recruitment.  So where an employer is faced with equally qualified candidates, it will be able to favour the disadvantaged group.


    Clearer.  These changes are designed to make equality law simpler; rather than have numerous pieces of discrimination legislation to consider, this will be the main one. However, it’s one that’s likely to lead to many new tribunal cases.  We will be examining all these issues and case law developments in future articles.


    Tip.  Despite reports to the contrary, employers will not be forced to publish employees’ salary details when the Act comes in.  Whilst the government has retained the right to do this, it won’t become effective until 2013 and will only apply to those with 250+ staff.  The Equalities Office has issued free guidance for employers on the Act which you can download from its website.


    Although this is a massive shake-up, it will simplify equality laws and should make this area much easier for employers.  Publishing employees’ salary details isn’t a requirement. 


    “Tips & Advice – Personnel”: 17.5.10