The Government has confirmed that the first wave of implementation of the Equality Act will go ahead as planned in October this year, following the publication of the first commencement order in Parliament this week.
The Act brings together nine separate pieces of legislation into one single Act simplifying the law and, according to the Government press release “reducing the burden on business by making it easier for firms to comply with discrimination law”.
The line adopted by the coalition government is that 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”.
The Act introduces new provisions which include banning age discrimination outside the workplace; encouraging employers with 250 or more employees to publish pay statistics; and extending the scope to use positive action.
However, the government has so far refused to be drawn on its next steps for equal pay, in particular requiring employers to reveal how much they pay men compared with women, as had been planned by the Labour government which introduced the legislation.
Along with these legislative measures, the Government has also said that the Government Equalities Office will also look at ways of achieving equality aims without new legislation.
The GEO also published this week, in conjunction with the British Chambers of Commerce, the Equality and Diversity Forum and Citizens Advice, a series of summary guides to support implementation of the Act.
These will be followed by a series of ‘Quick Start’ guides to key changes in the law. This simple guidance will set out clearly what the new laws will mean for business, the public sector and the voluntary sector, helping people to prepare and minimising the effects of transition.
To access the summary guides, go to: http://www.equalities.gov.uk