1st October 2010


 Issue No.  2010/25



  Equality Act 2010  

One of the final acts of the Labour Government before the Election was to turn the Equality Bill into an Act of Parliament:  the Act received Royal Assent in April 2010.  It has been confirmed, with the publication of the Commencement Order that the main provisions of the Equality Act 2010 will come into effect on 1st October 2010.
The Equality Act brings together nine separate pieces of legislation into one single Act.  It is intended that this Act should simplify the law and reduce the burden on business by making it easier for firms to comply with discrimination law – only time will tell if this is true!
Do we need to do anything?
Employers should check: 
  • that any relevant policies and procedures such as equal opportunities or harassment policies are up to date; 
  • that recruitment practices such as application forms/interview techniques are reviewed to make sure that inappropriate questions are not being asked;
  • if any training is required (e.g. recruitment interview training; equality and diversity training; etc). 
So in summary what key provisions of the Equality Act 2010 do I need to be aware? 
  • Direct Discrimination remains unlawful when due to age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage & civil partnerships, pregnancy and maternity, unless the Employer can rely upon the Occupational Requirement defence.   
  • Discrimination by association will be unlawful. For example, an employee who has caring responsibilities for a disabled person will be protected against discrimination by their employer.  
  • Discrimination by perception will also be unlawful. For example, an employer rejects a job application from a white man whom the employer perceives is black because the candidate has an African sounding name; this would be direct race discrimination based on the employer’s mistaken perception. 
  • Duel Discrimination - an employee will be able to bring a single claim that they have been discriminated against on multiple grounds e.g. for being black and female. This is currently being considered but it is anticipated will be introduced in April 2011. 
  • Indirect Discrimination remains unlawful if a Provision, Criterion or Practice discriminates in relation to age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage & civil partnerships, unless the Employer can objectively justify the act by demonstrating a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. 
  • Harassment (and third party harassment) remains unlawful if it relates to age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation. 
  • Employers will be prevented from asking job candidates questions concerning their health or disability save for certain defined circumstances; for example to ascertain whether any adjustments will be required for the candidate to attend an interview (or other pre-recruitment test) or to determine that the candidate will be able to carry out a key part of the role. This will not prevent health screening post job offer.  
  • Employers are prevented from enforcing a contractual (pay secrecy) provision which restricts an individual from discussing terms of employment, where the discussion is a ‘relevant pay discussion’. In addition, the Act says that it is unlawful victimisation to take action against an employee who has engaged in a ‘relevant pay discussion’. 
  • When faced with a choice of two employees who are both equally qualified, the employer will be able to discriminate positively in favour of a candidate who is from an under-represented group. 
The Act is long and the above is not an exhaustive/authoritative list.
More information
We have produced a ‘Summary Guide to the Equality Act 2010’ and Sentient Members will be able to access/download this from the Members’ area on the website.
If you do not have access to the members’ area on the website, please get in touch for a user name and password.  Access is free to Sentient clients only. 
If you are a not a Sentient client but would like a copy of a ‘Summary Guide to the Equality Act 2010’ or to gain access to a suite of Employment Law and Health & Safety related documents contained within the exclusive members area on the Sentient website, please telephone 08456 446 006 or email info@sentientuk.co.uk for further information.




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