With the Equality Act due to come into force in October 2010, the Government Equalities Office has produced a series of quick guides for public sector, voluntary and community organisations as well as employers and businesses.
Acas has also produced a guide for employers (equally useful to trade unions) which looks at where the law has:
- Stayed the same – for example, direct discrimination still occurs when "someone is treated less favourably than another person because of a protected characteristic"
- Changed – for example, employees will now be able to complain of harassment even if it is not directed at them, if they can demonstrate that it creates an offensive environment for them
- Been extended – for example, associative discrimination (direct discrimination against someone because they associate with another person who possesses a protected characteristic) will cover age, disability, gender reassignment and sex as well as race, religion and belief and sexual orientation
- Been introduced for the first time – for example, the concept of discrimination arising from disability, which occurs if a disabled person is treated unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of their disability.
The Equality Act brings together nine separate pieces of legislation into one single Act simplifying the law.
The government claims this will “reduce the burden on business by making it easier for firms to comply with discrimination law”. Perhaps it could have added that it will hopefully also make it easier for claimants to understand the law when making a claim.
The first wave of implementation of the Equality Act will go ahead in October, following the publication of the first commencement order in Parliament recently.
To access the guides produced by the GEO, go to: http://www.equalities.gov.uk
To access the ACAS guide, go to: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=3017