Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act brings together separate pieces of legislation into one single Act that provides a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all. It introduced the term “protected characteristics” to describe the groups to whom it gives protection.
The protected characteristics are:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
See the Equalities and Human Rights Commission website (external link) for an explanation of the protected characteristics.
The Equality Act sets out the different ways in which it is unlawful to treat an individual or group, such as direct and indirect discrimination, harassment, and victimisation. The Equality Act also requires public bodies to consider how their decisions and policies affect people with different protected characteristics.
The Public Sector Equality Duty
The Public Sector Equality Duty was created by the Equality Act 2010 in order to harmonise the previous race, disability and gender equality duties and to extend protection to the new protected characteristics listed in the Act. The broad purpose of the equality duty is to integrate consideration of equality and good relations into the day-to-day business of public authorities. It requires equality considerations to be reflected into the design of policies and the delivery of services, including internal policies, and for these issues to be kept under review.
Those subject to the general equality duty must have due regard to the need to:
- Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Act
- Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not
- Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not
These are sometimes referred to as the three aims of the general equality duty. The Act explains that having due regard for advancing equality involves:
- Removing or minimising disadvantages suffered by people due to their protected characteristics.
- Taking steps to meet the needs of people from protected groups where these are different from the needs of other people.
- Encouraging people from protected groups to participate in public life or in other activities where their participation is disproportionately low.
The Act states that meeting different needs involves taking steps to take account of disabled people's disabilities. It describes fostering good relations as tackling prejudice and promoting understanding between people from different groups. It states that compliance with the equality duty may involve treating some people more favourably than others.
The duty to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination also covers marriage and civil partnership in the workplace.
Find out more
Up to date information on the latest developments regarding the equalities act can be found on the Home Office website (external link).