The Equality Act 2010 comes into force on 1st October 2010 and will have a major impact on employers, as it revamps discrimination law in the UK.

All employers will have to review their policies and procedures, ensure they are compliant and that they have comprehensive anti-discrimination, harassment and equal opportunities policies in place.

UK discrimination law has developed piecemeal over the last 30 years and there are numerous pieces of legislation, which have led to some inconsistencies between these different areas of law.

The new law consolidates and simplifies the existing discrimination legislation concerning sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, age and religion or belief and provides a single Act covering all forms of discrimination in employment.

In summary, it contains a number of new clauses and important changes to the substance of the legislation, including:

· a new definition of discrimination including the concept of, “protected characteristic,’ (which encompasses all the above existing protected grounds of discrimination);

· wider definitions of “direct and indirect discrimination;’

· the definition of “harassment’ shall be extended. The focus is on preventing unwanted conduct, whether or not this is related to one of protected grounds above, as there shall no longer be the need for a particular employee’s characteristics to be the reason for unwanted conduct, in order for an Employer to be liable. It could be the employee’s association with someone with a protected characteristic;

· extensions of “associative and perceived discrimination;’

· restrictions on (pay secrecy clauses) the circumstances in which an employee can be prevented from discussing pay and bonuses. The idea behind this is to make gender pay discrimination more transparent;

The Act shall require businesses of all sizes to promote equality and diversity and avoid discrimination in the workplace.

The Act also gives employment tribunals wider powers, to not only make financial awards to the individual who is claiming but to also make recommendations to employers that benefit the whole workforce.

Employers are warned to be aware and prepare for the changes, especially given their vulnerability due to the high awards granted by employment tribunals (for discrimination cases) and that there is no cap on the amounts of these types of awards.

Although here are some parts of the Act that the Government is still considering how to implement, the new Equality Act 2010, largely comes into force on 1st October 2010 and is a major change for employers.

For advice on this major change in employment law and practical commercial advice on the implications it will have on an employer’s employment policies, please contact me on 01254 229800 or