Legal Updates

Employment Law – The Equality Act 2010 – Disability Discrimination – Equality and Diversity - Discrimination

 

On 1 October 2010, The Equality Act 2010 (“the Act”) came into force and replaced the following long standing discrimination legislation by bringing them into one piece of legislation:

  • The Equal Pay Act 1970,
  • The Sex Discrimination Act 1975,
  • The Race Relations Act 1976,
  • The Disability Discrimination Act 1995,
  • The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003,
  • The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003,
  • The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006,
  • The Equality Act 2006 (majority of), and
  • The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007
  • (all as subsequently amended)

The Act has as its core aim, the unifying and simplifying of the above legislation, to provide a single point of reference for equality matters.

From the employer’s perspective, the obligations imposed by the Act remain largely the same as prior to the Act. The Act covers the same groups that were previously protected under the legislation above prior to its enactment, which are now referred to as the ‘protected characteristics’, namely: (i) age, (ii) disability, (iii) gender reassignment, (iv) race, (v) religion or belief, (vi) sex, (vii) sexual orientation, (viii) marriage and civil partnership, and (ix) pregnancy and maternity.

Summary of New Inclusions (not found in previous legislation)

In respect of these ‘protected characteristics’, the following new inclusions are found in the Act:

  • Any person bringing a claim for discrimination on the grounds of age, disability or gender re-assignment can now do so on the basis of “discrimination by association” i.e. they are directly discriminated against because they associate with somebody possessing one of these ‘protected characteristics’;
  • Any person bringing a claim for discrimination on the grounds of disability, gender re-assignment or sex can now do so on the basis of “discrimination by perception” i.e. they are directly discriminated against because people perceive them to possess a particular ‘protected characteristic’;
  • Any person bringing a claim for discrimination on the grounds of disability or gender re-assignment can now claim indirect discrimination, which they could not previously do i.e. no direct discrimination exists but a measure or policy is implemented which applies to everyone but has the effect of disadvantaging the person possessing the particular ‘protected characteristic’;
  • An employer can potentially be liable for “harassment by a third party” of one of its employees on the grounds of age, disability, gender re-assignment, race, religion or belief or sexual orientation, where this has happened on two or more occasions and the employer (having knowledge of this) has not taken reasonable steps to prevent it reoccurring.

Summary of Changes to Previous Legislation

The Act introduces a number of changes to the rights that existed under the former legislation listed above.  The key changes are as follows:

  • Employees can now make a complaint of harassment (in respect of behavior they find offensive) against a third party on the grounds of age, disability, gender re-assignment, race, religion or belief or sexual orientation, even where such action is not actually directed at the employee and where the employee does not possess the ‘protected characteristic(s)’;
  • In respect of all the ‘protected characteristics’ (age, disability, gender re-assignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity), an employee can now bring a claim for victimisation, asserting that he/she was treated badly as a result of filing or supporting a grievance or complaint under the Act.  The employee will no longer need to show comparable treatment of an employee who did not file or support a grievance or complaint under the Act in asserting their claim.

Scope of definition for ‘Protected Characteristics

A few changes have been made to the scope of the definition of some of the ‘protected characteristics’, namely:

  • Disability - a person is disabled if he/she has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his/her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.  The Act includes a new protection from discrimination arising from disability, rendering it discrimination to treat a disabled person unfavourably because of something connected with his/her disability.  The Act also includes a new provision which makes it unlawful for employers to ask about a candidate’s health before offering the candidate employment (except in certain circumstances).    
  • Gender re-assignment - provides protection for transsexual individuals. The Act clarifies that a transsexual person is someone who proposes to, starts or has completed a process to change his or her gender. The change removes the need for such individual to be under medical supervision in order to be able to assert the protected characteristic in a discrimination claim.

For more information on this or before relying on any of the amendments to definitions, please contact us at enquiries@rtcooperssolicitors.com.

Tribunals

The Act gives the employment tribunal extended powers to make recommendations to an employer ‘directing’ the employer to act in such a manner that reduces or eliminates the effect of its actions (as complained of by an employee), on its employees in general, not only the complainant.  An example of the kind of recommendation that a tribunal may make is for the employer to administer some form of training for management and/or its staff. QUALITY ACT – WHAT’S NEW FOR EMPLOYERS?

If you require further information please contact us at enquiries@rtcooperssolicitors.com or visit one of the following pages:

© RT COOPERS, 2011. This Briefing Note does not provide a comprehensive or complete statement of the law relating to the issues discussed nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight general issues. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to particular circumstances.

 

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