New Anti-Discrimination Laws Come Into Force
On 1st October 2010, most of the provisions of the long-awaited Equality Act 2010 came into force.
The Act represents an attempt to restate existing anti-discrimination in a clearer and more coherent form. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of a “protected characteristic” – e.g. on the basis of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.
However, the Act also makes important changes to the law. These include the following:
• The Act clarifies the law on what is termed associative discrimination. This is where A discriminates against B because of his association with C who has a protected characteristic – where, for example, an employer refuses a job to a person because she has caring responsibilities for a disabled child or an elderly relative.
• The Act outlaws perceptive discrimination. So, it will be unlawful to deny promotion to a person because it is wrongly believed that he has a mental illness, or to permit harassment of an employee on the basis that he is gay when, in fact, he is straight.
• The law relating to harassment has been extended. In certain circumstances a person will now be able to complain of harassment where the oppressive conduct complained of is that of a third party (e.g. a client or customer) or is aimed at another individual.
• The Act generally makes it illegal to ask questions about the health of job applicants. There are a number of exceptions. For example, it will be lawful to ask a question for the purpose of establishing whether the applicant will be able to carry out a function that is intrinsic to the work concerned. Breach of the new rules may result in enforcement action by the Commission for Equality and Human Rights but will not, of itself, entitle the applicant to sue or claim compensation.
• The Act renders clauses in employment contracts designed to stop employees discussing their contractual terms with one another are rendered unenforceable.
If you would like to know more about the Equality Act 2010, please contact Gareth Pobjoy or Nick Crook.
Filed: 04/10/2010 08:46:46