Employment Law Update (July 2010)
Equality Act "will simplify the law" says Coalition
After a period of uncertainty following the formation of the new
Coalition Government, it has now been confirmed that the Equality
Act will begin to be implemented in October 2010 as originally
anticipated. In a press release, the Government stated the
new Act will "simplify legislation for business" by combining nine
separate current laws under one new law.
The Equality Act 2010 was one of the final pieces of work
undertaken by the previous Labour Government – and received Royal
Assent in April after starting its progress into law as long ago as
2005. During debates in parliament, the new law had broad support
from all political parties, but some areas remained controversial,
casting doubts on whether a new Government would proceed with
As with any new law, understanding how it changes the existing
situation will take time and have some cost – although no doubt
"removing" nine laws and replacing them with one will help the new
Government achieve its stated aim of reducing red tape by removing
more regulations than it brings in.
What does the Equality Act do?
The Equality Act 2010 has two main aims:
- To consolidate the various pieces of anti-discrimination law
into one place; and
- To strengthen the law to support progress on equality.
Although the Equality Act will put all the existing
anti-discrimination law in one place, the different forms of
discrimination - which include sex, race, disability, age, sexual
orientation and religion & belief - will remain distinct areas
as they are now, and each will still be defined in different
On the second aim – to strengthen progress on equality – the
Equality Act does make some changes. In particular, these
include protection from "associative discrimination"; limiting the
right of employers to ask for medical information from job
applicants, and, most controversially, permitting "positive
discrimination" for the first time in the UK.
As an employer, what do I need to know?
- Most anti-discrimination law will stay the same, or
practically the same, as now.
There are no new strands of discrimination in the Equality Act, but
there are some changes to make the workings of the existing strands
more similar to each other. For example, all strands of
discrimination will now include a prohibition against indirect
- It will become unlawful to ask medical questions before
offering a person a job, except for certain limited
Reasons include complying with disability discrimination law when
making interview arrangements and a genuine, job-related
- Make sure you understand how you can avoid
discriminating against people through "associative
"Associative Discrimination" is where you treat someone less
favourably because of someone they are associated with.
A good example is treating an employee less favourably because
they have to care for a disabled relative – this would be
associative disability discrimination.
How will Mentor help me?
Mentor is here to help businesses with changes like this.
Between now and October, Mentor will provide updated guidance
and tools to explain the Equality Act and help your business comply
To keep up with the changes, subscribe to our e-bulletin or log in to MentorLive.
In the mean time for on-the-spot guidance and support on this or
any other Employment Law issue, call the Advice Service where a
member of the team will be happy to help.