Equality Act key legal changes

The majority of the Equality Act provisions were introduced in October 2010 with the rest being phased in over 2010-13. So what exactly is different from current anti-discriminatory legislation?

A fundamental difference is that new groups are now provided the same levels of protection from discrimination across all the protected characteristics and all sectors. Below is a summary of key changes:

  • Protecting people from discrimination in the recruitment process. The Bill makes it unlawful for employers to ask job applicants questions about disability or health before making a job offer, except in specified circumstances.
  • Protecting people discriminated against because they are perceived to have, or are associated with someone who has, a protected characteristic, For example protecting carers from discrimination. The Equality Act will protect people who are, for example, caring for a disabled child or relative. They will be protected by virtue of their association to that person.
  • Protecting pregnant women and mothers from discrimination. The Equality Act makes clear that mothers can breastfeed their children in places like cafes and shops and not be asked to leave. The Act also prohibits schools from discriminating against pupils who are pregnant or new mothers
  • Extending the equality duty to require the public sector to take into account the needs of all protected groups (except marital and civil partnership status).The new Equality Duty will require public authorities to consider the needs of all the protected groups in, for example, employment and when designing and delivering services. Although timescales for this Duty are to be confirmed with the government.
  • Changing the definition of gender reassignment, by removing the requirement for medical supervision.
  • Harmonising the thresholds for the duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people.
  • Extending protection in private clubs to sex, religion or belief, pregnancy and maternity, and gender reassignment.

For a more comprehensive list of changes visit the Home Office website.

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