The Equality Act 2010 (the Act) brings together and replaces the previous anti-discrimination laws with a single Act. It aims to make it more consistent, clearer and easier to follow in order to make society fairer.
The Act aims to remove inconsistencies and make it easier for people to understand and comply with it. The majority of the Act came into force on 1st October 2010.
The nine main pieces of legislation that have merged are:
- the Equal Pay Act 1970
- the Sex Discrimination Act 1975
- the Race Relations Act 1976
- the Disability Discrimination Act 1995
- the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
- the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
- the Equality Act 2006, Part 2
- the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007
Who is protected?
The Equality Act 2010 aims to protect disabled people and prevent disability discrimination by providing legal rights for disabled people in the areas of:
- Goods, services and facilities
- Public functions
- Work and training
- Associations and political parties
The Act also provides rights for people not to be directly discriminated against or harassed because they have an association with a disabled person. This can apply to a carer or parent of a disabled person. In addition, people must not be directly discriminated against or harassed because they are wrongly perceived to be disabled.
Although the Equality Act replaced the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), from the 1st October 2010, the Disability Equality Duty (DED) was retained under the DDA until 6th April 2011. The DED has now been replaced with the Public Sector Equality Duty.
Who has responsibilities?
The Act applies to all service providers and those providing goods and facilities in Great Britain. This includes, for example those providing information, advice and day care or running leisure centre facilities. It applied to all services whether or not a charge is made for them.
The Act creates anti discrimination legislation across eight ‘protected characteristics’. These are:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership*
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sex and sexual orientation
*It applies to marriage and civil partnership, but only in respect of the requirement to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination.
Definition of Disability
Alison John & Associates work is underpinned by the Social Model of Disability which recognises that people are disabled by poor design, inaccessible services and other people’s attitudes rather than by their impairment or health condition. This contrasts with the Medical Model which views impairment or health conditions as the primary cause of disability.
Within the Equality Act 2010, a person is deemed as being protected under the characteristic ‘disability’ if:
they have a physical or mental impairment
the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to perform normal day-to-day activities
For the purposes of the Act, these words have the following meanings:
‘substantial’ means more than minor or trivial
‘long-term’ means that the effect of the impairment has lasted or is likely to last for at least twelve months (there are special rules covering recurring or fluctuating conditions)
‘normal day-to-day activities’ include everyday things like eating, washing, walking and going shopping
People who have had an impairment in the past that meets the above definition are also protected by the Act.
Progressive conditions are also considered to be a ‘disability’ under protected characteristics:
There are additional provisions relating to people with progressive conditions. People with HIV, cancer or multiple sclerosis are protected by the Act from the point of diagnosis. People with some visual impairments are automatically deemed to be disabled.
Conditions that are specifically excluded:
Some conditions are specifically excluded from being covered by the disability definition, such as a tendency to set fires or addictions to non–prescribed substances.
It is important to point out that to qualify for protection from discrimination, a disabled person no longer has to show that their impairment affects a particular ‘capacity’, such as mobility or speech, hearing or eyesight.