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The Equality Act 2010

Download pdf  The Equality Act 2010 – guidance for employers [221kb] quick start guide.

The Equality Act became law in October 2010. It replaces previous legislation (such as the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995) and ensures consistency in what you need to do to make your workplace a fair environment and to comply with the law.

You can find out all you need to know about what the changes mean for employers and how to review and monitor your existing policies in these two useful guides:

Public Sector Equality Duty

The public sector Equality Duty (section 149 of the Act) came into force on 5 April 2011. The Equality Duty applies to public bodies and others carrying out public functions. It supports good decision-making by ensuring public bodies consider how different people will be affected by their activities, helping them to deliver policies and services which are efficient and effective; accessible to all; and which meet different people's needs.

The Equality Duty is supported by specific duties, set out in regulations which came into force on 10 September 2011. The specific duties require public bodies to publish relevant, proportionate information demonstrating their compliance with the Equality Duty; and to set themselves specific, measurable equality objectives.

To find out more, visit the Government Equalities Office website.

The Equality Act covers the same groups that were protected by existing equality legislation - age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity - it extends some protections to some of the groups not previously covered, and also strengthens particular aspects of equality law.

See our training course area for details of Acas guidance and training on the equality Act and how it will affect employers.

The Equality Act is a mixture of rights and responsibilities that have:

  • Stayed the same - for example, direct discrimination still occurs when "someone is treated less favourably than another person because of a protected characteristic"
  • Changed - for example, employees will now be able to complain of harassment even if it is not directed at them, if they can demonstrate that it creates an offensive environment for them
  • Been extended - for example, associative discrimination (direct discrimination against someone because they associate with another person who possesses a protected characteristic) will cover age, disability, gender reassignment and sex as well as race, religion and belief and sexual orientation
  • Been introduced for the first time - for example, the concept of discrimination arising from disability, which occurs if a disabled person is treated unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of their disability.

As a result, you may need to review and change some of your policies and practices. This page highlights the ways Acas can help you to identify where you need to take action.

Equality Act 2010 - Acas Quick Start Guide for Employers

Acas has worked with the Government Equalities Office (GEO) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to produce a quick start guide for employers. This guidance covers the changes that came into effect through the Equality Act 2010 and details how employers can reassess and align their practices to remain compliant.

Further summary guides setting out what the new laws mean for business, the public sector, the voluntary sector and the public were produced by the GEO in partnership with the British Chambers of Commerce, Citizens Advice and the Equality and Diversity Forum, to support implementation of the Act. View all of the summary guides.

See also the EHRC website for guidance and good practice to help employers, workers, service users and service providers understand and use the new legislation.

What's changed?

  • Indirect discrimination
  • Associative discrimination
  • Perceptive discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Harassment by a third party
  • Victimisation
  • Positive action
  • Pre-employment health related checks
  • Extension of employment tribunal powers
  • Equal pay direct discrimination
  • Pay secrecy.

Questions and answers

Find answers to a range of typical questions about the Equality Act aimed at both employers and employees: Equality Act 2010 Questions and Answers

Equality Act Podcasts

Acas training

Acas Training - The Equality Act 2010: What Changes?

This training covers the changes that came into effect with the Equality Act 2010 and will include updates on the progress of each element of the Act including those with implementation dates later than October 2010.

This training will help you identify how the Equality Act will impact on your organisation and offer practical guidance for staying compliant with the law. The training will focus on:

  • the new protected characteristics
  • changes to the definitions of discrimination
  • harassment including extension to third party harassment
  • changes to disability discrimination
  • pre-employment health questions
  • positive action - including recruiting and promoting
  • monitoring and impact assessing
  • a new Public Equality Duty
  • gender pay reporting
  • tribunal awards.

View training courses on equality being run in your region.

Acas Training - Employment Law Updates

In this training session we update you on the key changes to current legislation and give you a flavour of any new legislation in the pipeline thus protecting you, your staff and your business. View training course dates and locations.

Acas Training - Monitoring and Impact Assessments - Putting Theory into Practice

This course starts at the beginning and takes delegates step by step through all the key elements of the Monitoring and Equality Impact Assessment process. View training course dates and locations.

Equality and Diversity - Acas Business Solutions

Acas can offer tailored advice, diagnosis, policy development services and specialist in-house support as well as bespoke training packages to help you address the challenges faced by your organisation. View more details about Acas' Business solutions.

If you would like to make an enquiry about Acas training or business solutions products you can contact Acas online through our online customer enquiry form.

Further Acas tools and resources to help you manage equality in the workplace

Acas has made available a range of free Tools and Resources for employers including:

  • forms and checklists
  • audit tools
  • score sheets
  • guidance notes.

You can also assess your equality and diversity policies online with the Acas Model Workplace diagnostics tool. The tool is a free and interactive way to assess your organisations policies and identify ways to improve your employment relations practice.

Acas equality and diversity case studies

Acas Helpline

If you are unsure whether your policies meet the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 you can call the Acas Helpline on 0300 123 1100 for free and impartial advice.

Have you been approached by anyone claiming to be working in association with Acas?

If you think you have we've provided some advice and guidance on what to do and what to look out for to Be aware of Acas imitators.

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