Discrimination and Equal Opportunities

Discrimination law in England and Wales is now a huge area of interest to - and potential concern for -employers.  Recent reform has introduced new legislation, most notably the Equality Act 2010 which came into force on 1st October 2010.

Why has the law been reformed?

Discrimination law needed to be reformed because it had grown over a number of years, from various sources, and was too complex for previous legislation.

Recent changes to be aware of

The Commission for Equality and Human Rights was created in October 2007. It took over roles previously provided by the:

  • Equal Opportunities Commission
  • Commission for Racial Equality
  • Disability Rights Commission

One of the major changes introduced by the Equality Act 2010 is that it is generally unlawful to ask pre-employment disability and health questions to job applicants.

    What does discrimination law cover?

    Generally, the law seeks to provide protection from discrimination in these specific areas:

    • Sexual orientation
    • Sex
    • Pregnancy or Maternity
    • Status as a married person or civil partner
    • Gender reassignment
    • Race
    • Disability
    • Religion or Belief
    • Age

    Are there different types of discrimination?

    Yes. Discrimination can be split between Direct Discrimination and Indirect Discrimination.

    Is there a time limit on applications?

    Yes. Applications must be made to an Employment Tribunal within three months of the discriminatory act. 

    How much compensation can I claim?

    Compensation can be unlimited, and can include an award for injury to feelings.

    What is harassment?

    Harassment is a form of discrimination. It occurs where a person engages in unwanted conduct:

    • In respect of someone’s particular gender, age, disability, race (or ethnic or national origin), gender reassignment, religion (or belief), or sexual orientation
    • Which has the effect of violating that person’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person; and
    • That should reasonably be considered as having that effect

    Harassment also occurs where a person rejects sexual harassment, and as a result is treated less favourably than they would have been had they not rejected the advances.

    Why employers must take all discrimination seriously

    Crucially, an employer may acquire liabilities for discriminatory actions taken by its employees.  Therefore it is very important for employers to:

    • Have effective and updated equal opportunities policies in place
    • Understand both their obligations, and those of their employees, in implementing these policies 

    Getting in touch

    For further information on our Discrimination and Equal Opportunities service, contact Carol Shaw on 01295 204140 or email cshaw@se-law.co.uk