Regardless of how big your business is, it’s important to understand the scope and powers of the Equality Act 2010, ensuring you put adequate policies and procedures in place to ensure people are treated fairly at all times.
The risks of not adhering to the Equality Act 2010 include claims being brought against your organisation and, in some cases, serious reputational damage. According to the Ministry of Justice, there were 195 discrimination cases where compensation was awarded in 2021/22 and the maximum amount awarded was £228,000.
In this article, we will explain what you should know about the Equality Act 2010, why it was introduced, who the Act affects, and the characteristics protected under the Act.
What is the Equality Act of 2010?
The main purpose of the Equality Act 2010 is to uphold the rights of individuals, protect them from unfair treatment due to a perceived protected characteristic (see below for more details) and increase equal opportunity. It provides a basic framework for protecting people against discrimination (both direct and indirect), harassment and victimisation.
Why is the Equality Act 2010 important?
Before 2010, laws relating to equality were spread across over 116 pieces of legislation, including sex, race, discrimination, sexual orientation, religion or belief and age. Due to the complexity this created, the Equality Act was introduced in October 2010 to bring these together in a single piece of legislation. Some of the items of legislation that were brought together to form the Equality Act 2010 include:
- The Equal Pay Act 1970
- The Sex Discrimination Act 1975
- The Race Relations Act 1976
- The Disability Discrimination Act 1995
- The Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003
- The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
- The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
- The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007
What are the main points of the Equality Act 2010?
- The Act protects people from discrimination, harassment, and victimisation
- It’s unlawful to discriminate against a person because of a protected characteristic
- It’s unfair to discriminate against a person because they are wrongly perceived to have a particular characteristic or due to their association with someone with a protected characteristic
Who does the Equality Act 2010 apply to?
Anyone is protected from discrimination in a range of settings, including:
- Public services such as a hospital or GP surgery, school or another educational setting, library, etc
- Public bodies such as local authorities or government departments
- Business or other privately-owned organisations
- Clubs and associations
What types of discrimination does the Equality Act 2010 cover?
The Equality Act 2010 covers four types of discrimination in any of the above settings:
- Direct discrimination: when an individual is personally discriminated against.
- Indirect discrimination: occurs when a policy or rule affects a wider group of people (e.g., all employees), but some people are more unfairly affected than others
- Harassment: occurs when a person’s dignity is violated due to hostile, degrading, or offensive actions
- Victimisation: whereby a person is unfairly treated because they are taking action under the Equality Act or supporting another person taking action under the Act
How does the Equality Act 2010 affect employers?
The Equality Act 2010 prohibits employers from discriminating against, harassing and victimising certain classes of persons. Those people may be members of the public, staff members, paying customers, visitors, or prospective clients. It also places an obligation on employers to put in place ‘reasonable adjustments’ for people with a disability. In some cases, however, it may be permissible to make decisions that impact one group of people over another, such as when providing facilities such as changing rooms.
How many characteristics are protected under the Equality Act 2010?
There are nine protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
Get legal assistance from LawBite
The Equality Act 2010 is a crucial piece of legislation that every business, regardless of size, must be familiar with. By adhering to the guidelines laid out in this act, companies can create a workplace environment that is fair and inclusive for all employees. To achieve this, companies must review their policies and procedures, provide regular training to their staff, establish an equality team, and have a clear process in place to address any concerns of discrimination promptly.
Seeking legal advice from expert employment lawyers can be beneficial when navigating the complexities of discrimination law. To find out how LawBite can help you, book a free 15 minute consultation with one of our expert lawyers or call us on 020 3808 8314.