Why is new legislation being introduced?
Over the last 40 years, we have had a plethora of anti-discrimination legislation that sought to address inequalities faced by individuals and groups within our society. The resultant problem was that the existing legislation had become complex, inconsistent and unwieldy. The new Equality Act received Royal Assent on 8th April 2010. The intention is to simplify things considerably, by having a single legislative framework (replacing the numerous Acts and Regulations in existence) that will provide a strengthened statutory basis for tackling discrimination whilst demonstrating a level of parity across all equality groups.
The Equality Act has two main purposes:
- To harmonise discrimination law and
- To strengthen the law to support progress on equality.
The Act places a ‘general duty’ on Public bodies, who ‘must have due regard to the need to;’
- Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation
- Advance equality of opportunity and
- Foster good relations.
Public bodies must:
- Publish specific, measurable, reasonable equality objectives, to further the aims of the General Duty.
- Consider all relevant information and data they have published, prior to setting their objectives.
- Set out how progress towards the objectives will be measured and publish further information regularly to show how they are performing.
Change to the language being used
Where previously we talked about the six/seven key equality strands, the new Act talks instead about nine protected characteristics – the specified areas covered by the new legal framework. They are
- Race (slight change in definition)
- Sexual Orientation
- Religion or Belief
- Marriage and Civil Partnership
- Pregnancy and Maternity
- Gender Reassignment (slight change in definition)
What is happening & when?
The following provisions came into force on 1st October 2010 (others will follow over the subsequent two years)
- Protection against direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation in services and public functions, premises, work, education, associations and transport.
- Changing the definition of gender reassignment by removing the requirement for medical supervision.
- Protection offered to people discriminated against because they are perceived to have or are associated with someone who has a protected characteristic, e.g. carers.
- Clearer protection for breastfeeding mothers.
- Applying the European definition of indirect discrimination to all protected characteristics.
- Extending protection from indirect discrimination to disability.
- Introducing a new concept of “discrimination arising from disability”.
- Applying the detriment model to victimisation protection (aligning with the approach in employment law).
- Harmonising the thresholds for the duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people.
- Extending protection from third party harassment to all protected characteristics
- Restricting the circumstances in which employers can ask job applicants questions about disability or health.
- Allowing hypothetical comparators for direct gender pay discrimination.
- Making pay secrecy clauses unenforceable.
- Extending protection in private clubs to sex, religion or belief, pregnancy and maternity and gender reassignment.
- Introducing new powers for employment tribunals to make recommendations that benefit the wider workforce.
- Harmonising provisions allowing voluntary positive action.
Things that were being considered for inclusion in the new Duty
There are a number of provisions that were being considered, some of which have been dismissed, whilst others are being or have been phased in over the subsequent two years. Amongst them are;
- The socio-economic duty on public authorities
- Dual discrimination
- Gender pay gap information
- Positive action in recruitment and promotion
- Prohibition on age discrimination in services and public functions
- Civil partnerships on religious premises
What else do you need to know?
As a Force, we are required to
- Promote transparency in everything we do. Citizens and interest groups of the county are being encouraged to hold us to account for our performance. In response to this, we need to regularly release data in an accessible way.
- Put more emphasis on the local priorities rather than bureaucratic targets.
- Focus on equality outcomes rather than ‘ticking boxes’.
Want to know more?
The following link will take you to the Equality Act 2010 introduction.