The government has published the long-awaited Equality Bill, an accompanying “EasyRead” guide and a background policy document.

Broadly, the Bill consolidates legislation that prohibits discrimination in the workplace, standardises the approach to each form of discrimination, strengthens the law to ensure progress on equality and imposes “equality duties” on public authorities.

In relation to pensions, the Bill implies into occupational pension schemes a:

  • “non-discrimination rule” intended to prevent responsible persons (including scheme trustees and employers) from discriminating, harassing or victimising prospective members of the scheme on the basis of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation (the non-discrimination rule would be subject to the special provisions on age discrimination for pension schemes as set out in Schedule 2 to the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006);
  • “sex equality rule” intended to replace equivalent equal treatment provision in section 62 of the Pensions Act 1995 (trustees will also be given a statutory overriding power to amend the scheme rules to include a sex equality rule); and
  • “maternity equality rule” intended to replace provisions on “unfair maternity” in the Social Security Act 1989 and the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999.  

Under the Bill, legal proceedings could be brought against persons who breach the above implied rules.

The Bill is expected to come into force in autumn 2010.

Our Employment team have produced a full note on the other provisions of the Equality Bill.