The Solicitor - The FindLaw UK Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

Equality Act now in force: what's in and what's out? (Part 1)

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The totemic Equality Act came into force today. Well, most of it. Around 10% of the Act's provisions have been held back pending further government consultation.

Before we take a look at the provisions held back, let's take a look at the ones that made it.

Equality Act provisions now in force

  1. New framework introduced to protect people against direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation in services and public functions; premises; work; education; associations, and transport. (NB. you can read more about this new framework as it relates to employment here: .)
  2. New definition of gender reassignment (NB. removes the requirement that a person be under medical supervision in order to benefit from protection);
  3. Increased protection for people discriminated against because they are perceived to have, or are associated with someone who has, a protected characteristic. (NB. the following characteristics are 'protected' under the Equality Act: age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage; civil partnership; pregnancy; maternity; race; caste; ethnicity; national origin; skin colour; religion; belief; sex; and sexual orientation);
  4. Clearer protection for breastfeeding mothers: it is now unlawful for a woman to get 'less favourable treatment' because she is breastfeeding when receiving services -- but there is still no right to breastfeed at work;
  5. Scope of indirect discrimination extended to cover disability and gender reassignment;
  6. Various definitions of indirect discrimination harmonised;
  7. New concept of "discrimination arising from disability" to replace protection under previous legislation lost as a result of a legal judgment;
  8. Thresholds for the duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people harmonised;
  9. Protection from third party harassment extended to all protected characteristics;
  10. Pre-employment questions or physical examinations concerning health or disability prohibited except in very limited circumstances (e.g., where an employer asks a question to ensure an applicant can carry out a function that is essential to the job);
  11. Claims for direct gender pay discrimination allowed even where there is no actual comparator (NB. previously women had to point to an actual male colleague who was being paid a higher rate in order to prove they were being discriminated against);
  12. Pay secrecy clauses (which prevent employees talking about the pay and bonuses) are now unenforceable;
  13. Protection against discrimination in private clubs extended to sex, religion or belief, pregnancy and maternity, and gender reassignment;
  14. New powers for employment tribunals to make recommendations which benefit the wider workforce introduced;
  15. New provisions allowing voluntary positive action by employers to help someone who has a protected characteristic (e.g., to increase diversity).

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