Equality Act 2010

Posted: 26th October 2010

Flares2Described by one commentator as “the biggest thing since flares” this landmark piece of legislation harmonizes UK discrimination law and enhances protection in a number of respects.

Previously, protection against discrimination on what are now nine unlawful grounds was contained within an array of statues and regulations created during a period spanning five decades. The Equality Act 2010 brings it all together.

The new legislation also seeks to smooth out inconsistencies in the rights and remedies available to victims of different types of discrimination and harassment. Associative, dual and perceived discrimination will all bring rights to redress.

Employers may want to take particular note of the fact that workers with a disability have enhanced protection with the removal of the need for a comparator in discrimination claims, effectively reversing the decision of the House of Lords in Malcolm v London Borough of Lewisham, which had pulled most of the teeth out of the existing law.

Restrictions on the use of pay secrecy clauses and questions about health records during recruitment are further traps for the unwary. More is to come with the likely phasing out of the default retirement age following a government consultation which closed last week.

As with any new piece of legislation there will be a bedding-down period and we shall no doubt see the extent to which changes in wording give rise to litigation before the tribunals and courts to determine the right interpretation.

In the meantime, we will be keeping up to date with the discussions and forecasts as the new regime unfolds and will be glad to assist with problems or questions in what remains a complex area.