The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 came into force on 1st October 2010 and replaced the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, the Disability Act 1995 and various Regulations.

It is important to remember this Act, (like other acts) is not retrospective. So if your claim relates to discrimination before October 2010, you will need to rely upon the previous relevant legislation, even if this limits or prevents you taking action. However, if the discrimination occurred before 1st October 2010 and carried on after that date, you will be entitled to rely on the Equality Act 2010.

To comply with the Equality Act, we recommend our Staff Handbook  - the CompactLaw Employers Pack. The Employers Pack includes all the latest policies and contracts updated to comply with the Act.

The Act simplifies and consolidates the law on discrimination. People with the following "characteristics" are protected under the Act:

1. Age - see more on age discrimination below

2. Race 

3. Disability

4. Religion or religious beliefs

5. Sex

6. Sexual Orientation

7. Gender Reassignment

8. Marriage and Civil Partnership

9. Pregnancy and Maternity

The Act makes the following changes to the law:

1. Restores protection from discrimination related to disability.  

2. Makes pay secrecy clauses unenforceable if they relate to pay within the same organisation.

3. Allows positive action to be taken.

4. Prevents employers asking health related questions unless these are necessary to help with decisions related to reasonable adjustment or monitoring diversity or taking positive action. It is permissible to ask health related questions to find out if the applicant can carry out a particular function that is essential to the job or the job requires the candidate to have a disability. See our Staff Handbook for updated Confidential Health Questionnaire and Equal Opportunities Policy, both of which are relevant to this point.

5. Gives employment tribunals new powers to make recommendations affecting the whole work force, not just the person bringing the action.

6. Introduces a new category of disabled person namely those with a visual impairment.

7. Introduces a new definition for gender reassignment – the Act no longer requires a person to be under medical supervision before they can claim to be transgender.

8. Extends discrimination by association to age, disability, gender reassignment and sex.

9. Extends discrimination by perception to disability, gender reassignment and sex.

10. Extends indirect discrimination to disability and gender reassignment.

11. Removes the need for a real person comparator before an equal pay claim can be made.

12. Allows employees to make complaints of harassment even where the harassment is not directed at them.

13. Removes the need in victimisation claims to compare the treatment of a complainant with that of a person who has not made a complaint under the Act. 

14. Protection extended to include private clubs.

Some parts of the Act have yet to be brought into force such as the duty on local authorities to reduce socio-economic inequalities or the requirement for employers to disclose information about pay based on gender if they have 250 employees or more. 

However, the Act does mean that employers will need to update their relevant employment policies, such as Equal Opportunities and recruitment processes to comply.


Age Discrimination
Under the Act, age discrimination is banned against adults in the case of providing services or public functions. However, there are exceptions to this. Also, age discrimination is allowed where an "objective justification" can be shown. Basically, there is a good and obvious reason for the age discrimination. The specific exceptions are:

  • Age-based concessions
  • Age-related holidays
  • Age verification
  • Concessions or discounts provided by clubs or associations
  • Financial services
  • Immigration
  • Residential park homes
  • Sport


Public Sector Equality Duty
Since 5th April 2011, all public bodies or any organisation carrying out a public function or role must consider all individuals when forming policies and delivering services - basically everything that they do. This broadly means public bodies should be good citizens - avoiding acting in a way that could be discriminatory, promoting equal opportunities and fostering good relations with and between individuals. This is quite wide-ranging and potentially onerous for the public bodies concerned.

As part of that the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011 came into force on 10th September 2011, the regulations require public bodies to publish relevant and proportionate information to show compliance with the Equality Duty. The public bodies must also set and disclose equality objectives - what they intend to do in the future to encourage equality and equal treatment.