The Equality Act 2010

Why was a new law needed?

Over the years, many separate laws have been developed to protect people from different equality groups.  And although there is a well developed legal framework, many people feel that progress on equality has been very slow.  The new Act aims to bring together and simplify the existing discrimination laws in the UK and strengthen the law to support progress on equality.

Who does the law protect?

The Act sets out key “protected characteristics”.  People are protected if they are discriminated against because of any of these characteristics.  They are:

  • age;
  • disability;
  • gender reassignment;
  • marriage and civil partnership;
  • pregnancy and maternity;
  • race;
  • religion or belief;
  • sex; and
  • sexual orientation.

What does the law say about discrimination?

The Equality Act brings together a number of existing pieces of legislation.  The Act makes it unlawful:

  • To discriminate against, harass or victimise a person when providing a service or when exercising a public function.
  • To discriminate against, harass or victimise a person at work or in employment services. 
  • For education bodies to discriminate against, harass or victimise a school pupil or student or applicant for a place.
  • For associations (such as, private clubs and political organisations) to discriminate against, harass or victimise members, associates or guests.

How has the law been strengthened?

The Act strengthens the law in a number of areas:

  • It extends the circumstances in which a person is protected against discrimination, harassment or victimsation.
  • It establishes a general duty on public authorities to take account of:
  1. the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment or victimisation;
  2. to advance equality of opportunity; and
  3. to foster good relations.

For a more detailed description of the public sector equality duty go to Section 2.3.

Listed public bodies will have to consider how their policies, programmes and service delivery will affect people from equality groups.

  • It allows an employer or service provider to take positive action to help employees or customers to overcome or minimise a disadvantage associated with a protected characteristic.

Other provisions

The Act also introduced a ban on age discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities, services and public functions but as yet this has still to come into force.