The main provisions of the Equality Act in prohibiting discrimination in the workplace and in the provision of goods, liabilities and services, will replace existing discrimination legislation from October 2010.
The legislation will replace nine laws and more than 100 other measures with one single Act. The intention is to make it easier for employers and staff to understand their legal rights and obligations.
Here are the main aspects that employers need to prepare for:
* Ban on pre-employment health questionnaires
Employers will be prevented from asking candidates questions about their health and medical conditions that are unrelated to the job role. It will mean those with mental health issues, a medical condition or a disability will not be forced to disclose their condition prior to the offer of employment, unless it hinders their ability to do the job.
* Ban on discrimination by association
The Act will extend the law on direct discrimination to include discrimination by association (e.g. discrimination against carers of disabled children) and perception to disability, sex, gender reassignment and age in both the employment field and beyond - for example, to the provision of goods and services.
* Positive action in recruitment and promotion
The Act will enable employers to favour under-represented groups during recruitment processes - provided the candidates are of equal suitability - to increase the diversity of their workforces.
* New rules on what is considered to be a protected belief
A draft code of practice accompanying the Act explains that vegans, atheists and Scientologists could be given the same protection against discrimination as religious groups, under the legislation.
* Diversity in procurement
Private sector firms bidding for government contracts will now have to publish details of their diversity policies. The Act will not seek to impose statutory duties on the private sector to promote diversity, but will use public sector procurement to hold firms to account.
* Ban lifted on workers discussing pay
Employers will no longer be able to rely on keeping their pay structures secret. The Act will ban secrecy clauses in employment contracts, so that individuals can challenge unfair pay.
* Enhancing tribunal powers
Tribunal panels will be given powers under the Equality Bill to order organisations found guilty of discrimination against a single employee to make sweeping changes to their hiring and pay practices. Currently, tribunals can only offer recommendations to the individual who brings the case.
* Gender pay gap audits
The Act will make it possible for the government to require all employers with more than 250 staff to report their gender pay gap from 2013, if sufficient progress on reporting has not already been made voluntarily. The Equality and Human Rights Commission will develop a set of measures for gender pay reports in consultation with business, unions and others over the summer, and the commission will then monitor the progress of reporting within the private sector annually. Public bodies with more than 150 employees will also be required to report on gender pay as well as other equality data including the number of black, Asian and minority ethnic workers, by April 2011.
Posted on 19 Nov 2016