Equality Act 2010 comes into force 1 October – what does it mean?

The Equality Act 2010 brings together nine separate pieces of legislation into one single act simplifying the law and strengthening it in important ways to help tackle discrimination and inequality.

The coalition government announced on 3 July that the first wave of implementation of the Equality Act will take place on 1 October 2010. On this date, the vast majority of the act’s provisions will come into force. There are also some areas of the act which the government is still considering and may come into force at a later date.

Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities Theresa May said:

“By making the law easier to understand, the Equality Act will help business treat staff fairly and meet the needs of a diverse customer base. The law will be easier to understand and better able to protect people from discrimination.

“Implementing the Equality Act to the planned timetable makes clear our commitment to equality. A successful economy needs the full participation of all its citizens and we are committed to implementing the Act in the best way for business.”

To help people understand the new laws, the Government Equalities Office has prepared a series of summary guides: Equality Act 2010: what do I need to know?

These guides set out clearly what the new laws will mean for business, the public sector, the voluntary sector and the public, helping people understand their new responsibilities and rights when providing goods, facilities or services.

The Government Equalities Office produced the guides in partnership with the British Chambers of Commerce, Citizens Advice, ACAS and the Equality and Diversity Forum.

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.
  • Levelling up protection for people discriminated against because they are perceived to have, or are associated with someone who has, a protected characteristic, 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 a new concept of “discrimination arising from disability”, to replace protection under previous legislation lost as a result of a legal judgement.
  • Changing the definition of gender reassignment, by removing the requirement for medical supervision.
  • Applying the detriment model to victimisation protection (aligning with the approach in employment law).
  • Harmonising the thresholds for the duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people.
  • Extending protection from 3rd party harassment to all protected characteristics.
  • Making it more difficult for disabled people to be unfairly screened out when applying for jobs, by restricting the circumstances in which employers can ask job applicants questions about disability or health.
  • 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.

Provisions the government is still considering

  • The socio-economic duty on public authorities.
  • Dual discrimination.
  • Duty to make reasonable adjustments to common parts of leasehold and commonhold premises and common parts in Scotland.
  • Gender pay gap information.
  • Provisions relating to auxiliary aids in schools.
  • Diversity reporting by political parties.
  • Positive action in recruitment and promotion.
  • Provisions about taxi accessibility.
  • Prohibition on age discrimination in services and public functions.
  • Family property.
  • Civil partnerships on religious premises.

The government is consulting about how best to implement the Public Sector Equality Duty. Download the consultation:

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