Equality Act 2010
On 1 October 2010, the new Equality Act 2010 (“the EA”) came into force. It’s basically an amalgamation of the infamous Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (“the DDA”) with the Race Relations Act 1976, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, and the various statutory instruments that cover age, sexual orientation, religion and belief, and brings the various strands under one roof, labelled “protected characteristics”.
In theory, it will make it “easier” for those with protected characteristics to make a claim for discrimination in the Employment Tribunal or County Court. Whether it does, remains to be seen.
As a solicitor specialising in discrimination law, this will have huge ramifications on my work. The first thing I looked at was the transitional arrangements. It’s not as simple as saying “awh, just claim everything under the EA, doesn’t matter when the discrimination happened!”. The rules are thus:
If an act or acts occurred wholly before 1 October 2010, then they will be dealt with under the old legislation. If they happened on 1 October 2010 onwards, then they will be dealt with under the EA.
What about continuing acts of discrimination though? That is to say, acts of discrimination that started before 1 October 2010 but continued after this date? It seems that these will fall under the EA.
On a practical level, I now need to edit all our precedents, although I’ll probably do this on a one-by-one basis as I don’t have the time to edit them all in one go!
One other thing. Obviously I deal with disability discrimination on a day to day basis; the main changes to the DDA are as follows:
- Disability-related discrimination has been scrapped. This is good news because the judgment made by the House of Lords in the London Borough of Lewisham v Malcolm  case made it extremely difficult for claimants to succeed under this part of the DDA, and has now been reversed by the EA with the new concept of discrimination arising from a disability. If any of you want me to explain what was so damning about the Malcolm case, comment and I’ll explain.
- The introduction of indirect discrimination to disability discrimination, bringing it in line with the concept already familiar in in sex and race discrimination.
- Harmonising the thresholds for the duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people.
- Making it more difficult for disabled people to be unfairly screened out when applying for jobs, by restricting the circumstances in which employers can ask job applicants questions about disability or health.
I look forward to working with the EA and it’ll certainly make a change from working with that old dinosaur, the DDA!
“It’s not “the DDA” any more; it’s “the EA”!