Equality Act 2010 commences in Britain

Today, the main provisions Equality Act 2010 (the Equality Act) are brought into force by The Equality Act 2010 (Commencement No. 4, Savings, Consequential, Transitional, Transitory and Incidental Provisions and Revocation) Order 2010 (Commencement No. 4 Order). The purpose of the Equality Act is to both strengthen and harmonise existing equality legislation, previously spread across numerous statutes and statutory instruments, into a single comprehensive piece of legislation. Some notable developments coming into force today are:

  • A harmonisation of protection across all of the protected characteristics (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation), including (i) the extension of protection from indirect discrimination to include disability and (ii) the extension of protection from third party harassment to all protected characteristics;
  • Protection from discrimination in new circumstances through the inclusion of associative and perceived discrimination in the definition of prohibited conduct, which will be particularly significant for carers;
  • Provisions allowing for positive action where proportionate to the aim of overcoming disadvantage and improving equality;
  • The restriction of the circumstances in which employers are permitted to ask job applicants about their health before making a job offer which should serve to improve job opportunities for people with disabilities; and
  • Provisions which make pay secrecy clauses unenforceable and thereby make it easier for individuals to establish whether they are suffering from unlawful discrimination with regard to pay.

The following, and arguably some of the most innovative, Equality Act provisions are not being brought into force today:

  • The new public sector duty related to socio-economic inequalities (ss. 1-3);
  • The prohibition of dual discrimination (s.14);
  • The provision for legislation requiring that employers review gender pay differences within their organisations and publish the results (s.78); and
  • The creation of a unified public sector duty, intended to promote equality in public policy and decision-making, whereby the existing provisions relating to sex, race and disability have been extended to the protected grounds of sexual orientation, age and religion or belief (ss. 149-157).

Whilst certain of these provisions, including the prohibition of dual discrimination and the unified public sector duty, are scheduled to be brought into force in April 2011, the Coalition Government continues to consider its approach to other provisions such as those imposing the duty related to socio-economic inequalities. ERT will continue to advocate for the full enforcement of the provisions not covered by the Commencement No 4 Order.

To read the Equality Act 2010, click here.

To read The Equality Act 2010 (Commencement No. 4, Savings, Consequential, Transitional, Transitory and Incidental Provisions and Revocation) Order 2010, click here.