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A focus on the Equality Act (2010)

Updated on July 3, 2017

Structure and Scope of the Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act came into force in 2010. The focus of this Act was to streamline all former anti-discriminatory laws and combine the more than 100 statutes into a single legislation. The Ac covers employment, education, goods and services and facilities. The Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, pregnancy, marital status, religion, belief, race, gender reassignment and disability. Under this Act, public authorities are mandated to eliminate all forms of discrimination, victimization, harassment and other unlawful conduct. In addition, these authorities are expected to promote equality of opportunities between and among people of divergent groups. Further, firms are also expected to publish equality outcomes on the basis of involvement of equality communities and groups and informed of the general duty. This should be followed by impact evaluation whereby; the equality of new practices and policies are measured. This includes alterations to existing practices and policies as informed by evidence.

The Equality Act (2010) also goes to the extent of banning employers from asking potential candidates issues pertaining to their health prior to giving them work. Though employers can still ask some questions such as those targeting on employees conformity or soft skills to the job, it is not allowed for employers to subject potential employees to health questions that are not targeted.

a) Types of Discrimination Covered by Equality Act (2010)

The EA employs the term “protected characteristics” to depict the forms of discrimination it protects. As already identified, these protected characteristics cover, Age, Sex, Gender Reassignment, Marriage and Civil Partnership, Belief or religion, Maternity and Pregnancy, Sexual Orientation and Race.

According to this Act, discrimination are of different types namely: direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment, victimization, and detriment emanating from disability. Direct discrimination happens when an employer discriminates an employee of a specific protected characteristic. On the other hand, indirect discrimination is a situation whereby; an employer applies a criterion, provision or practice which is discriminatory in nature to a person or persons belonging to one of the protected characteristics. Harassment is self explanatory and occurs when employees or an employee is subjected to offensive environment for work. It may included being insulted, being overloaded with work, being required to work at odd hours against ones wishes and many other actions. In regard to victimization, employers are prohibited from subjecting an employee to detriment because of suing the particular employer for breaching the provisions of the Equality Act. Some employers may also victimize employees for giving evidence for injustices inflicted on them, or when an employee provides information that relates with the proceedings of the Equality Act. Finally, the detriment emanating from disability when an employer treats a particular employee in a detrimental manner because of their status. A good example is when an employer opts to dismiss an employee for being absent from work despite proof of being hospitalized. This would only be considered unlawful unless there is sufficient justification for the dismissal to have been a proportionate way of realizing a legitimate aim or the employer was not informed of the disability or illness (STRATH, 2015).

b) Employers and EA Compliance

In complying with EA Act 2010, employers are expected to make reasonable adjustments in making sure that disabled individuals are not subjected to substantial disadvantage. This could be in relation to criterion, policy or practice for instance, physical features, the criteria used for recruitment. This may also entail treating disabled individuals in a seemingly favorable way than those who are not disabled.

Employers are also required to ensure equality in pay for jobs that required similar capacity, skills and effort. In other words, this pay should not be adjusted according to sexual orientation, gender, age, race, et cetera. In this regard, employers should not take action against employees who are found to have been discussing about their pay with a view a purpose of evaluating their pay.

Under the Equality Act (2010), employers are as well required to take a positive action in encouraging or enabling individuals who are identified with protective characteristics to minimize or overcome the inherent disadvantages or take part in activities where they are underrepresented. This may extend to recruiting employees because of their protective features as long as they have the capability and skills as other candidates, and doing this on a case per case basis instead of a policy.

Employers should also avoid asking potential candidates personal issues or factors that infringe on their privacy. Questions such as those relating to health should only be asked once a person has successfully passed the interview. What an employer can ask during interview including the possibility of the candidate undergoing an interview or test to ascertain the capability of skills of the potential employee(s). Employers should further conduct regular job analysis and reviews in determining the appropriateness of HR resources, job practices, operations and job contracts to make sure that they comply with the Act. What is more, employers can organize for a range of diversity events which will subsequently enable dialogue, engagement, respect and understanding between and among people belonging to a “protected characteristics”.

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