The Equality Act 2010 brings together nine separate pieces of legislation into one single act.
The majority of the Equality Act 2010 came into force on 1 October 2010, providing protection from discrimination on the basis of 'protected characteristics'. The Equality Act covers the same groups that were protected by existing equality legislation - age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
The nine main pieces of legislation that have been replaced by the Equality Act are:
- Equal Pay Act 1970
- Sex Discrimination Act 1975
- Race Relations Act 1976
- Disability Discrimination Act 1995
- Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003
- Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
- Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
- Equality Act 2006 (Part 2)
- Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007
The Equality Act also includes the Public Sector Equality Duty which replaces the separate duties relating to Race, Gender and Disability.
Public Sector Equality Duty
The public sector equality duty consists of a general equality duty, set out in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 itself, and specific duties which are imposed by secondary legislation. The general equality duty came into force on 5 April 2011.
In summary, those subject to the General Equality Duty must, in the exercise of their functions, have due regard to the need to:
- Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Act.
- Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.
- Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.
These are sometimes referred to as the three aims or arms of the general equality duty. The Act helpfully explains that having due regard for advancing equality involves:
- Removing or minimising disadvantages suffered by people due to their protected characteristics.
- Taking steps to meet the needs of people from protected groups where these are different from the needs of other people.
- Encouraging people from protected groups to participate in public life or in other activities where their participation is disproportionately low.
Meeting different needs involves taking steps to take account of disabled people’s disabilities. It describes fostering good relations as tackling prejudice and promoting understanding between people from different groups.
The General Equality Duty is supported by specific duties set out in separate regulations which came into force on 10 September 2011. These regulations will promote better performance of the Equality Duty by requiring public authorities to :-
1) publish information to demonstrate compliance with the equality duty (at least annually)
2) prepare and publish equality objectives (at least every four years)
Equality Act provisions being considered
1. Provisions relating to auxiliary aids in schools
2. Provisions about taxi accessibility
3. Prohibition on age discrimination in services and public functions and associations - (under consultation)
4. Civil partnerships on religious premises - (consultation concluded)
Provisions that the Government has decided not to take forward
Theresa May, the Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, announced on 17 November that the Government will not be taking forward the socio-economic duty on public bodies, one of the outstanding provisions of the Equality Act 2010, the Gender Pay Gap reporting and dual discrimination.
|Key dates for the Equality Duty
5 April 2011 Public Sector Equality Duty came into force
31 January 2012 listed bodies to publish equality information
6 April 2012 listed bodies (including schools) to publish objectives and equality information.
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