United Kingdom Passes New Equality Act

On 8 April 2010, the United Kingdom (UK) Parliament passed the Equality Act 2010. The Act harmonises existing equality law which previously had been spread across numerous separate pieces of legislation.

The new Equality Act not only combines existing equality legislation into a single comprehensive Act but levels up protection for several grounds of discrimination such as age, disability, gender reassignment, religion or belief and sexual orientation. The Act provides protection from discrimination in employment, access to services and public functions, housing, education and health.

Some of the most notable aspects of the Equality Act 2010 include:
• The introduction of a new public sector duty related to socio-economic inequalities;

• The prohibition of combined (multiple) discrimination, although this is limited to cases  relating to direct discrimination on two grounds of discrimination only;

• The extended protection from discrimination on grounds of gender reassignment to school pupils;

• The creation of a unified public sector duty, intended to promote equality in public policy and decision-making, whereby the existing provisions have been extended to the  protected grounds of sexual orientation, age and religion or belief;

• The provision for legislation requiring that employers review gender pay differences within their organisations and publish the results;

• The extension of the period for which all-women shortlists may be used for parliamentary and other elections until 2030; the Act also allows parties to reserve places on shortlists of candidates for people on the grounds of race or disability.

The Act represents a significant victory for equality organisations in the UK who have worked tirelessly to secure a strong and comprehensive single piece of legislation. ERT contributed to this process by making submissions to the Equality Bill’s Public Committee and to the Government at various times.

Speaking about the recent development, ERT’s Executive Director Dimitrina Petrova said:

“We welcome the new Equality Act. Since 2000, when a review headed by ERT Chair Professor Sir Bob Hepple Q.C. was published and triggered the process of equality reform, equality lawyers and activists have been campaigning for this Act. We shall advocate the enforcement and the full and effective implementation of the Act’s provisions.“

To read the Equality Act 2010, click here.

To read ERT’s full submission to the Public Bill Committee, click here

To read ERT’s full response to the Multiple Discrimination consultation, click here.