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The Equality Act 2010
Friday 1st October 2010 sees the coming into force of the main provisions of the new Equality Act. The Act is designed to simplify and strengthen the discrimination legislation that has been developed over the last 40 years. This means that all of the existing discrimination legislation will be repealed on that date as the new Act replaces it. Legislation being replaced includes:

the Equal Pay Act 1970;
the Sex Discrimination Act 1975;
the Race Relations Act 1976;
the Disability Discrimination Act 1995;
the Equality Act 2006, part 2
the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003;
the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003;
the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006;
and the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007.

Not all of the provisions of the Act will come into force in October. The change of Government earlier in the year has resulted in a delay in confirming which aspects of the original Equality Bill were to come into force and the lateness of the publication of the guidance has caused a great deal of confusion for employers. Notably the introduction of combined discrimination; publication of gender pay gap information; positive action in recruitment and promotion; and the socio-economic duty on public authorities are still under consideration and will not come into force this year.

Protected Characteristics
In order to harmonise the various discrimination elements that have developed under previous legislation the new Act has collectively termed them as the 'protected characteristics'.

The protected characteristics under the Act are:
Gender reassignment
Marriage and Civil Partnership
Pregnancy and maternity
Religion or Belief
Sexual orientation

Extension of Concepts
There is a range of concepts that have been introduced or extended as a result of the Act. Some of these concepts covered some of the protected characteristics with existing legislation, but have now been extended to cover more of them. These include:
Associative discrimination – discrimination against someone because they have an association with someone with a particular protected characteristic.
Perceptive discrimination –discrimination against a person because the discriminator thinks that the person possesses that characteristic even if they do not do so.
Indirect discrimination – discrimination where a policy applies to everyone, but the policy has a disproportionate impact on people with a protected characteristic.

There are also changes to the definitions of victimisation and harassment. Under the new Act, employers may be liable if an employee suffers harassment from a third-party, such as a customer or client, which is related to a protected characteristic. However, some of the biggest changes apply in the area of disability discrimination, which outlaws the use of pre-employment questionnaires except in limited situations.

What do employers need to do?
As a minimum all employers need to:
Update their equality policies;
Update their harassment and bullying policies;
Review their application forms and recruitment procedures, particularly with respect to pre-employment medical questionnaires;
Consider ensuring that managers and supervisors are trained to understand the implications and their responsibilities under the Equality Act to minimise the risk of Tribunal complaints.

For help with any of these or for more advice, contact Helen Astill on 01684 594773 or
Posted on 19 Nov 2016

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