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The Equality Act 2010 A heads up for Employers

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The Equality Act 2010 will finally become law on 1st October 2010 replacing previous legislation on discriminatory matters. It is potentially the single biggest piece of legislation drafted on discrimination and many employers will have their work cut out putting in place measures to avoid falling foul of the stringent rules. The purpose of the legislation is to provide a straightforward, modern and available framework of law to provide protection from unfair discrimination and promote fairness in the workplace. It is hoped that the new act will ensure consistency in what needs to be done to ensure that the workplace is a fair environment. The act is a mixture of rights and responsibilities that have either remained the same as previous law, changed, been extended to cover new grounds or been introduced for the first time; it will cover the same grounds as previous laws, that being age, disability, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, relationship status and maternity leave. The changes that are due to take place will come into force at different times, some being implemented on 1st October 2010. Provisions coming into force on 1 October 2010 • The basic framework of protection against direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation in services and public functions; premises; work; education; associations and transport. • Changing the definition of gender reassignment by removing the requirement for medical supervision. • Levelling up protection for people discriminated against because they are perceived to have, or are associated with someone who has a protected characteristic, auch as a disability. So providing new protection for people like carers. • Clearer protection for breastfeeding mothers. • Applying the European definition of indirect discrimination to all protected characteristics. • Extending protection from indirect discrimination to disability. • Introducing the new concept of "discrimination arising from disability", to restore the protection from "disability-related discrimination" lost as a result of the Malcolm case. • Applying the detriment model to victimisation protection (aligning with the approach in employment law). • Harmonising the threshold for the duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people. • Extending protection from 3rd party harassment to all protected characteristics. • Preventing employers asking job applicants questions about disability or health before making a job offer, except in specified circumstances. • Allowing hypothetical comparators for direct gender pay discrimination. • Making pay secrecy clauses unenforceable. • Extending protection in private clubs to sex, religion or belief, pregnancy and maternity and gender reassignment. • Introducing new powers for employment tribunals to make recommendations which benefit the wider workforce. • Harmonising provisions allowing voluntary positive action. It is important that employers get acquainted with the new laws as soon as possible and take steps to ensure that their businesses adhere to the new regulations to avoid unnecessary claims against them. It is estimated that the cost of people familiarising themselves with the new regulations and the one-off costs of implementing it alone could be anything up to £280m in the first year Contact Alexandra Dean at for guidance on the more specific details that you or your organisation will need to know regarding the new reforms. The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.