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Equality Act 2010

The new Equality Act came into force on 1st October 2010. This Act brings together over 116 separate pieces of legislation into one single Act. This provides a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all.

The Act will simplify, strengthen and harmonise the current legislation to provide Britain with a new discrimination law, which protects individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and equal society.

The nine main pieces of legislation that have merged are:

  • Equal Pay Act 1970
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1975
  • Race Relations Act 1976
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1995
  • Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003
  • Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
  • Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
  • Equality Act 2006, Part 2
  • Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007

Who is protected by the Act?

Everyone in Britain is protected by the Act. The 'protected characteristics' under the Act are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion and belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

Main provisions

The main provisions that came into force on 1st October 2010 include:

  • The basic framework of protection against direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation in services and public functions. For example, the Commission has recently issued guidance regarding how businesses should deal with assistance dogs on their premises.
  • Changing the definition of gender reassignment.
  • Providing protection for people who are discriminated against because they are either perceived to be or are associated with someone who has a protected characteristic i.e. carers.
  • Clearer protection for breastfeeding mothers.
  • Applying the European definition of indirect discrimination to all protected characteristics.
  • Introducing a new concept of ‘discrimination arising from disability’
  • Making it more difficult for disabled people to be unfairly screened out when applying for jobs.
  • Introducing new powers for employment tribunals to make recommendations which benefit the wider workforce.