Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 came into force on 1 October 2010 and replaced all previous equality legislation. It legally protects aspects of our identity, known as ‘protected characteristics’, from discrimination in the workplace and wider society. Employers are obliged to protect people from discrimination from anyone they encounter as part of their work, including fellow workers, customers and suppliers.
Who is protected?
The nine protected characteristics are as follows:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
What does the law prohibit?
- Direct discrimination - treating someone differently and worse than someone else because of who they are.
- Indirect discrimination - when there's a practice, policy or rule which applies to everyone in the same way, but it has a worse effect on some people than others because of who they are.
- Discrimination by association - protects a person from being discriminated against because of a third-party's protected characteristic.
- Discrimination by perception - discrimination against someone because they are wrongly perceived to have a certain protected characteristic, for example, where an employer believes an employee is gay, or is of a particular race, and treats them less favourably as a result.
- Harassment - unwanted behaviour with the purpose or effect of violating your dignity, or creating a degrading, humiliating, hostile, intimidating or offensive environment.
- Victimisation - the action of singling someone out for cruel or unjust treatment.
Public Sector Equality Duty
The Equality Act also established the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED). As a public body we must:
- Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation.
- Advance equality of opportunity.
This involves having due regard to the need to:
- Remove or minimise disadvantages suffered by people due to their protected characteristics.
- Take steps to meet the needs of people with certain protected characteristics where these are different from the needs of other people, for example, taking steps to take account of people with disabilities.
- Encourage people with certain protected characteristics to participate in public life or in other activities where their participation is disproportionately low.
- Foster good relations between those who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.
This means tackling prejudice and promoting understanding between people from different groups and communities.