The current legislation relating to equality is the Equality Act, which became law in October, 2010. It replaced a number of previous legislation and complies with the Equal Treatment Directives of the European Union. The aim of the law is to ensure that there is consistency in the way employers and employees act to create a fair environment.
The previous legislation Equality Act replaced:
Equal Pay Act 1970
Sex Discrimination Act 1975
Race Relations Act 1976
Disability Discrimination Act 1995
Other regulations protecting employees against discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, sexual orientation and age:
Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003
Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
When complying with the law, the employer must assess the possibility to make reasonable adjustments for people with disability. Under limited circumstances it is possible to objectively justify discrimination. To help an applicant, employers can apply positive action if a candidate is at a disadvantage, underrepresented or have special needs because of a protected characteristics. An employer must evidence that a positive action is justified and does not discriminate against other applicants or employees.
Men and women in the same position have the right to equal pay.
Health related questions are only legitimate if the employer want to determine if the applicant can execute essential functions of the role.
The law promotes discrimination free attitudes and creates an atmosphere where people are free from harassment and discrimination. The law provides guidelines to follow and helps understand responsibilities.
It is unlawful to discriminate against people on the ground of protected characteristics. The protected characteristics have not priorities. The Act lists nine protected characteristics:
– Race, including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
– Pregnancy or Maternity
– Disability, including physical, sensory, HIV, cancer, mental health or learning disability
– Religion or belief
– Sexual orientation
– Gender re-assignment
– Married or civil partnership status
It is understood that discrimination can be direct, indirect; by association, perception, harassment, or victimisation.
Human Rights Act (1998)
Human rights and fighting for human rights and equality has a long tradition in Britain. The idea that people possess a set of inherent rights can be traced over the centuries, starting with the abolition of trial by combat or trial by ordeal in 1166. The Human Rights Act lists a set of civil and political rights considered to be fundamental. It defends the rights of citizens, residents, old or young, prisoners or pensioners. It states that privacy, family life, religion or belief is to be respected. The Act accepts no discrimination as everyone’s rights are equal, no one should be treated unfairly because of their race, gender, disability, sexuality, religion or age.
Mental Capacity Act (2005)
The MCA came into force in 2007 in England and Wales. The purpose of the Act is to promote and safeguard decision making. The scope of the Act are those who support people over the age of 16 who cannot make decisions for themselves. It promotes decision making by protecting people who lack capacity and by placing them in the centre of decision making also by allowing people to plan for the time in the future when they may lack the capacity.
The MCA has five key principles:
Individuals being supported make their own decisions. People who lack capacity are still to be involved in the decision making.
Right to unwise choices
Least restrictive option
The Care Act (2014)
The individual’s wellbeing is the main principle of the Care Act. The aim is to make support clearer and fairer. Before the Act came into force, people had different entitlements and different support. The Act focuses on the needs of people, and put the people receiving care in the centre as opposed to organisations delivering the care. By clarifying entitlements, support became more accessible, fair and more consistent.