The Equality Act 2010

JUNE SALMON of law firm Barker Gotelee looks at the implications of the new Equality Act

THE provisions of the Equality Act came in to force on October 1 this year. It harmonises and replaces previous legislation and ensures consistency in the workplace and in the provision of goods and services.

Providers of goods, facilities and services should treat everyone accessing their goods, facilities or services fairly, and guard against making assumptions about the characteristics of individuals. The Act covers the same groups that were protected before - age, disability, race, gender reassignment, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity - called “Protected Characteristics”. The concept of Associative Discrimination is introduced making it illegal to discriminate against a person because they are perceived to have a particular characteristic or associate with someone who has the characteristic.

Private members’ clubs of 25 or more members may not discriminate against members or guests on any of the protected characteristics. It is unlawful to discriminate against a women who chooses to breastfeed whilst using a service, transsexuals are protected against harassment and there are exceptions to the general prohibition of sex discrimination regarding provision of separate-sex services There is a prohibition on age discrimination in the provision of services and public functions. Businesses must make reasonable adjustments for disabled people to enable them to access their goods, facilities and services. When recruiting an employer may not ask about a job applicant’s health until that person has been either offered a job or been included in a pool of successful candidates to be offered a job. To make an enquiry which falls outside of the exceptions listed below is unlawful:

n Finding out whether a job applicant would be able to participate in an assessment to test his or her suitability for the work;

n Making reasonable adjustments to enable the disabled person to participate in the recruitment process;

n Finding out whether a job applicant would be able to undertake a function that is intrinsic to the job, with reasonable adjustments in place as required;

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n Monitoring diversity in applications for jobs;

n Supporting positive action in employment for disabled people; and

n Enabling an employer to identify suitable candidates for a job where there is an occupational requirement for the person to be disabled.

All the protected characteristics are safeguarded against harassment. This is unwanted conduct that is sexual in nature which violates a person’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment are prohibited.