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Employment Law for Employers - Equality Act 2010

18th October 2010
By NetWords in Employment Law
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The Equality Act 2010 will come into force on 1st October 2010 and brings together a number of existing laws that aim to provide protection against discrimination in the workplace and beyond, such as the Sex Discrimination and Disability Discrimination Acts. It covers the same groups (now called protected characteristics) that were protected by existing equality legislation – age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity – but extends some protections to groups not previously covered and also strengthens particular aspects of equality law.
The main areas of change are:

Associative Discrimination:

This is direct discrimination against an individual because they associate with another person who possesses a particular protected characteristic. For example, if an employee has an offer of promotion rescinded after informing the organisation that their parent has just been diagnosed with cancer because employer think that the employee will have difficulty meeting the new responsibilities of the post.


Protection from harassment has now been extended so employees can complain of behaviour that they find offensive even if it isn’t directed at them. For example, an employee can claim harassment if a manager is humiliating his/her team member because of that person’s disability.

Protection from harassment has also been extended so that a person can be discriminated against even if the employee need not possess the relevant characteristics themselves. For example, if an employee is not gay and his colleagues are aware of this, but is continuously harassed on the grounds of being gay.

Harassment by a third party (not part of the organisation such as customers or clients) has also been extended to cover additional protected characteristics. For example, if a customer racially abuses an employee and it is proven that the organisation has either not done enough to resolve the matter or as far as possible put in place procedures to protect its employees.

Positive Action:

As with previous equality legislation, the Equality Act allows positive action to be taken if it is believed that employees or job applicants who share a particular protected characteristic suffer a disadvantage connected to that characteristic, or if their participation in an activity is disproportionately low.

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