Business News

Get Ready For New Equality Act

Time is ticking away for businesses to review their policies and practices to make sure they are in line with the new Equality Act.

Most of the Equality Act will become law on 1 October 2010, bringing together and replacing previous discrimination legislation. It covers a range of groups that have protected characteristics relating to:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity

The new Act is designed to streamline existing equality law and contains elements that remain unchanged from previous legislation, have been amended or extended or introduced for the first time. Changes have been made in the following areas:

  • third party harassment: employers are potentially liable if staff are harassed by people they don’t employ, such as external suppliers or customers
  • pre-employment health checks: with some exceptions, from October employers should no longer send out pre-health questionnaires with employment application packs
  • employment tribunal recommendations: employment tribunals can require employers found guilty of discrimination to take steps to change their policies and practices to prevent further discrimination
  • pay secrecy: the Equality Act will make a clause in contracts requiring employees to keep pay secret unenforceable. Employers can still require employees to keep pay rates confidential from others outside the workplace, such as competitors.

In the light of these changes, businesses may need to review and change some policies and practices.

LINKS: Equalities Act summary guides and Acas guide