Over the last four decades, discrimination legislation has played an important role in helping to make Britain a more equal society. However, the legislation was complex and, despite the progress that has been made, inequality and discrimination persist and progress on some issues has been stubbornly slow.
The Equality Act 2010 aims to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all; to update, simplify and strengthen the previous legislation; and to deliver a simple, modern and accessible framework of discrimination law which protects individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society.
Some of the provisions for the workplace coming into force on 1 October 2010 are:
- The basic framework of protection against direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation.
- Extending protection from indirect discrimination to disability.
- Introducing a new concept of “discrimination arising from disability”.
- Harmonising the thresholds for the duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people.
- Making it more difficult for disabled people to be unfairly screened out when applying for jobs.
- Introducing new powers for employment tribunals to make recommendations which benefit the wider workforce.
Employers have to enforce a policy whereby direct and indirect disability discrimination is absolved and in which failure to comply will be severely acted upon through tribunals.
Certain changes in the act target employers and the working environment they need to provide. Furthermore, the recruitment process has been fine-tuned to stop the direct or indirect discrimination that may take place before and after the recruitment process. This includes health questions before the choice of employment is made.
In addition, this act addresses employers who fail to provide the necessary adjustments to their working environment which allow people with disabilities the opportunity to not only be considered for recruitment, but also work effectively once employed. This covers both the internal working environment and the means to be present i.e. providing the necessary resources and reasonable adjustments for employees to arrive at work; including flexibility in working schedules. For the full report, visit www.opsi.gov.uk