Equality Act

Equality Act 2010 Coat of Arms
The Equality Act 2010 is the UK legislation which legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. It replaced previous anti-discrimination laws with a single Act, making the law easier to understand and strengthening protection in some situations. It  ensures consistency in what employers and employees need to do to make their workplaces a fair environment and comply with the law. The protected characteristics include age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership, and pregnancy and maternity. New measures from April 2017 include stem from the introduction Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017.

Contact us for advice on how this will affect your organisation, what your obligations are as an employer and when you will have to submit the required information to the Government. We can also help you collate and analyse this information, decide on best way to publish this information publicly and support you with a strategy for closing any gaps which are identified across your workforce.

Types of Discrimination

They types of discrimination covered by the Equality Act include:

  • Direct discrimination – where someone is treated less favourably than another person because of a protected characteristic
  • Associative discrimination – this is direct discrimination against someone because they are associated with another person who possesses a protected characteristic
  • Discrimination by perception – this is direct discrimination against someone because others think that they possess a particular protected characteristic. They do not necessarily have to possess the characteristic, just be perceived to.
  • Indirect discrimination – this can occur when you have a rule or policy that applies to everyone but disadvantages a person with a particular protected characteristic
  • Harassment – this is behaviour that is deemed offensive by the recipient. Employees can now complain of the behaviour they find offensive even if it is not directed at them.
  • Victimisation – this occurs when someone is treated badly because they have made or supported a complaint or grievance under this legislation.

Positive Action vs. Positive Discrimination

Some groups with protected characteristics might need help and encouragement to access opportunities and services. Some groups are under-represented or disadvantaged in an area or service, because of past experience or current attitudes, do not put themselves forward. Positive action is treating one group more favourably than another, as a way of giving a disadvantaged group a chance to participate. To be permissible, it must meet the groups’ needs, help to overcome the disadvantage, and help group to participate in the activity.

Organisations need to understand positive action and can use it if they believe a particular group:

  • Are at a disadvantage because of a protected characteristic and/or
  • Are under-represented in the organisation, or whose participation in the organisation is disproportionately low, because of a protected characteristic and/or
  • Have specific needs connected to a protected characteristic.

Positive discrimination is the practice or policy of favouring individuals belonging to groups which suffer discrimination and providing them with opportunities using this as the basis. For example, offering someone who is disabled an opportunity of employment when there is an able-bodied person more qualified for the role at interview would be illegal.

However, implementing a guaranteed interview scheme (for example) to disabled people when applying for a job would be an example of positive action. All candidates would be going through the same assessment process, but the positive action taken seeks to remediate historical underrepresentation of disabled people in your organisation.

Contact us for a free consultation to discuss what interventions your organisation could look to adopt in order to improve the diversity of your workforce. We can also provide training courses which are easily digestible for your employees to explain to them why your organisation is taking a new approach to improving the organisational culture and widening the talent pool.