Equality law and your business
Equality law applies to any business that provides goods, facilities or services to members of the public. This includes local trades people like builders, plumbers, locksmiths, electricians and gardeners.
It also includes larger companies who may specialise in particular areas of building work like heating engineering, replacement windows, loft conversions, conservatories and extensions.
It doesn’t matter whether the service is free, for example, information about services which is provided at no charge, or whether it must be paid for – it will still be covered by equality law.
Possible issues for your business
First, make sure you know what equality law says you must do as a business providing goods, facilities or services to the public. (link not provided)
When you run a business like this, you will often have access to people’s homes. This means you may have knowledge about a client’s or customer’s protected characteristics which you would not have without this access. It is important you do not use your knowledge in a way that puts your client or customer at a disadvantage, such as by breaching client confidentiality, if this would count as providing them with a worse service or on worse terms.
A plumber works on a radiator in a client’s main bedroom and notices from clothing and toiletries that they are clearly in a same-sex relationship. The plumber tells their work colleagues, to the extent that the next time someone different arrives to work on the heating system, they treat the client in a hostile way. The first plumber would not have spoken about an opposite sex couple’s living arrangements in the same way and it has led to the client receiving the service on worse terms, so what they have done may be unlawful discrimination because of sexual orientation. The right sort of approach is for the plumber to avoid commenting on the client’s personal circumstances where these relate to a protected characteristic, and to respect client confidentiality in the same way that they would, for example, in relation to the security arrangements at a person’s home.
Reasonable adjustments to remove barriers for disabled people
You need to think particularly about different communication needs that disabled people may have. A failure to communicate or understand an instruction may lead to very expensive or dangerous mistakes. Depending on the circumstances, meeting people’s needs in this way may be a reasonable adjustment.
A builder usually provides a written quotation before starting work. Instead, a disabled client who is visually impaired asks the builder to go through the quotation in detail while the client makes notes on their computer as a record for themselves of the quotation. Holding this meeting is likely to be a reasonable adjustment and, if so, this is an example of the right approach.
A heating repair company installs an SMS alert system for customers needing emergency repairs to their heating systems. They do this so that their existing and potential deaf customers are able to benefit from their services as easily as other customers. This is an example of the right sort of thing to do.
Last updated: 20 Jun 2016