The Equality Act 2010, which came into force on 1st October, brings disability, sex, race and other grounds of discrimination together within a single piece of legislation.

In addition to harmonising the law, key changes include:

  • Extending protection from third party harassment to all grounds of discrimination, not just on the grounds of sex;
  • Revisions to disability discrimination law;
  • The extension of associative and perceptive discrimination and harassment;
  • The prohibition of pay secrecy clauses; and
  • Preventing employers from asking certain pre-employment enquiries about disability and health.
  • To comply, employers need to:
  • Amend their Equal Opportunities and Anti-Harassment Policies to comply with the new association and perception rules;
  • Review their Sickness Absence Policies to ensure that they cater for the newly widened disability discrimination protection;
  • Stop using pre-employment health questionnaires and remove blanket health or disability-related questions from application forms, unless certain specific exceptions apply, including whether the applicant can carry out a function that is “intrinsic” to the work concerned;
  • Consider whether pay secrecy clauses should be removed or amended to include an exception where employees are involved in making or seeking a “relevant pay disclosure”; and
  • Be aware of the implications of the extension of third party harassment, and consider revising and extending their Equal Opportunities and Anti-Harassment Policies accordingly.

While much of the Act restates or clarifies current discrimination law, the day-to-day impact on employers will be potentially widespread, so it is important that organisations provide their staff with training on the requirements, and review their documentation accordingly, seeking legal advice where necessary.