Equality Act 2010 – What you need to know

Recent news reports have revealed concerning cases of dress code discrimination, with women being forced to wear revealing clothing, make-up or heels to work.

A parliamentary report concluded that the Equality Act 2010 was inadequate, and that there needed to be a new legal framework in place to prevent discrimination.

Until this happens, we thought we’d give you a quick summary of the Equality Act 2010, who it protects, and what is expected of an employer.

What is the Equality Act 2010?

The Act is a government law created to protect people from discrimination, not only in the workplace, but in wider society. It specifies the different ways it’s unlawful to treat someone.

Who does the Equality Act 2010 protect?

The Equality Act 2010 is there to protect everyone. There are a number of ‘protected characteristics’ of a person that it it is illegal to discriminate against. These include:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Sex
  • Disability
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital status
  • Pregnancy (or being on maternity leave)
  • Religious beliefs (or lack of)
  • Being or becoming a transexual

What is classed as discrimination?

Discrimination can come in a number of forms. There’s direct discrimination, which is treating someone with protected characteristic in a different way, and there’s indirect discrimination, which is making decisions that put those with a protected characteristic at an unfair disadvantage. Also falling under discrimination is harassment which is behaviour that violates someone’s dignity or creates a difficult environment, and victimisation which involves treating someone unfairly because they’ve made a complaint about discrimination.

Discrimination in the workplace

Discrimination in the workplace includes all of the above behaviour in relation to a number of aspects of work, including pay, promotion, recruitment, dismissal, training, redundancy and contracts.

As an employer, you can do a number of things to combat discrimination and create a positive environment for all people in your business. These include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Make sure job adverts don’t discriminate against everyone, and make it clear all worker are welcome at your company.
  • Don’t mention protected characteristics in recruitment, including marital status, religious background or whether they are planning to have children.
  • Make adjustments to make your workplace accessible to disabled employees.
  • Actively recruit people with a protective characteristic (if you think they are underrepresented or are at a disadvantage in your field).
  • Handle complaints about discrimination with formal investigations, procedures and confidentiality.

For further advice on how to avoid discrimination and how to manage it, contact our team for professional, expert guidance.