The majority of the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 came into force on 1 October 2010, with the aim being to harmonise discrimination law and strengthen the law to support progress on equality.

Protected Characteristics under the Act that apply to Private Clubs/Associations:

  • Disability 
  • Gender reassignment
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race 
  • Religion or belief  
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

Types of Discrimination prohibited by the Act:

  • Direct Discrimination (including Perceptive Discrimination and Associative Discrimination)
  • Indirect Discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Victimisation  

Associations – What is an Association?

An association is an organisation that has 25 or more members and rules regulating who can be a member, with there being a genuine selection process, for example, golf clubs, sports clubs and social clubs, but not nightclubs or gyms.

How does the Act apply to Members, Associates and Guests?

It is unlawful to discriminate against, harass or victimise existing or potential members or associates, or existing or potential guests. Associations and private clubs cannot refuse membership or grant membership on less favourable terms because a person has a protected characteristic and cannot refuse to invite a person as a guest, or invite a person as a guest on less favourable terms.

The exception to this is that associations and private clubs can restrict membership to people who share a particular protected characteristic, and where membership is restricted to people who share a particular protected characteristic, can only admit guests who share that protected characteristic.

Reasonable Adjustments for Disabled Members, Associates and Guests

Associations and private clubs are required to make reasonable adjustments to allow disabled people to become members or associates and for guests to participate in activities and access the facilities. Such adjustments have to be reasonable in all the circumstances.

The Sporting Exception

Associations and private clubs can organise separate sporting activities/competitions for men and women where physical strength, stamina or physique are major factors; and where one sex would generally be disadvantaged if placed in direct competition with the other.

Positive Action

Associations and private clubs are entitled to take proportionate steps to encourage participation/membership from those with a protected characteristic who are under-represented or disadvantaged.

Recommended Actions

  • Review all existing policies, constitutions, club rules and practices and consider if any amendments are required in light of the Equality Act.
  • Review facilities and service provision and consider whether more could reasonably be done to accommodate disabled members/guests.
  • Consider positive action to redress any imbalance.