An Equality Act 2010 refresher

The Equality Act 2010's intention was to drive all kinds of discrimination even further into the fringes of society. For employees this was supposed to mean that the workplace would be safe and welcoming for every gender, race, sexuality and religion. Regrettably, you only need to read the news to find the latest list of alleged actions which infringe the Act, or at least the spirit of it.

For example, you have the high profile lawyer who offered a compliment on LinkedIn to a female barrister which was very much more to do with her looks than her professional achievements. This was deemed inappropriate and sexist by both her and most of the twittersphere. That being said, there are many that viewed the whole affair as a storm in a teacup.

It would seem from this that one person's compliment is another person's insult, which highlights the difficulty employers face when trying to provide welcoming and legally compliant workplaces.

What can we do?

Our multi-disciplinary team of highly experienced regulatory and employment lawyers can provide a top to bottom review of how your business investigates, disciplines and ultimately prevents discrimination.

From the review we can provide a comprehensive breakdown of the strengths and weaknesses of your systems before providing you with the requisite policies, procedures and training materials your business needs to comply with the Act and enhance your working environment.

Our tailor made service will allow you to provide a welcoming, friendly and legally compliant workplace which has the added bonus of having a fantastic reputation due to its forward thinking attitude to discrimination and equality.

Here is a brief overview of the Act to get you started on your journey towards this.

Equality Act 2010

The Act begins by specifically labelling 9 'protected characteristics'. These are:

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

It then goes on to elaborate on the four types of discrimination that fall under the act. These are as follows:

    1. Direct Discrimination

This arises when someone is treated less favourably than another due to a protected characteristic.

    1. Associate Discrimination

This can be when an employee is discriminated against due to them associating with another person who has a protected characteristic. For example, if Jane, a non-Muslim, was being treated differently due to her boyfriend being a Muslim man then she would be suffering from associate discrimination.

    1. Discrimination by perception

This is when someone is treated differently due to the other person perceiving that a person possesses a type of protected characteristic even if they do not. For example, if John, who was not Jewish, received anti-Semitic abuse in the workplace from someone who thought he was Jewish then he would be suffering from discrimination by perception.

    1. Indirect Discrimination

This can take place when the employer has a rule that applies to everyone but particularly disadvantages an individual employee or a group of employees due to a protected characteristic. An example of this could be a dress code which does not reasonably accommodate for religious attire.

What do employers need to do?

The message that employers need to take from these stories is that discrimination is still present in many workplaces, that it has a harmful effect on the lives of many employees and that the publicity from allegations and court cases relating to the Equality Act will have a massively damaging effect on their businesses public reputation.

This means that employers need to understand what the Equality Act 2010 is and how to correctly implement its requirements. They also need to have a robust plan to implement it and, if you are an employer, this is where our experts come in. Kate Boguslawska, an employment advisor to the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in London, is an acknowledged expert in this field and offers an initial, free consultation.


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