The Bill’s explanatory notes set out its two main purposes: to harmonise and to strengthen discrimination law to support progress on equality. The main provisions of the bill are as follows:

  • Harmonise key concepts in respect of defining discrimination including direct, indirect, justification, victimization, harassment and introduce a new concept of combined discrimination where an individual has at least two protected characteristics
  • Permit employers to discriminate lawfully where there is an occupational requirement defence and extend the concept of positive action  
  • Redefine the concept of disability discrimination and introduce a new concept of indirect disability discrimination  
  • Creation of a single equality duty for public sector bodies and a new duty to consider social and economic inequalities when taking strategic decisions  
  • Encourage greater pay transparency by prohibiting pay secrecy clauses and requiring public sector (and potentially private sector) employers to disclose details of the gender pay gap  
  • Broader powers for the employment tribunal to make recommendations for the benefit of the entire workforce and not just the claimant if it finds that an employer has discriminated against an employee  
  • Prohibit age discrimination in relation to goods and services

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has issued three draft statutory Codes of Practice on employment, equal pay and services, and public functions and associations. Consultation on these draft Codes closes on 2 April 2010. The Bill has now completed the Committee stage in the House of Lords and the Report stage is due to take place on 2 March 2010.