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The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act became law in October, 2010. It replaced previous legislation (such as the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995) and ensures consistency in what employers and employees need to do to make their workplaces a fair environment and comply with the law.

To be aware of what this means in practice, see the set of three new main guides:

pdf icon Equality and discrimination: understand the basics [331kb] outlines the fundamentals of what employers, and employees and their representatives need to know, and must and should do to make their workplaces a fair environment and comply with equality law.

pdf icon Prevent discrimination: support equality [404kb] explains where discrimination is most likely to arise in the workplace and how to stop it happening

pdf icon Discrimination: what to do if it happens [335kb] is a step-by-step guide covering how an employee should raise a complaint of discrimination and how an employer should handle it.

Key points

An employer must consider making 'reasonable adjustments' for a disabled employee or job applicant if:

  • it becomes aware of their disability and/or
  • they ask for adjustments to be made and/or
  • a disabled employee is having difficulty with any part of their job and/or
  • either an employee's sickness record, or delay in returning to work, is linked to their disability.

There are limited circumstances where an employer may act in a way which is discriminatory if it can objectively justify discrimination as what the law terms 'a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim'. Employers should note that this can be a difficult process.

An employer can take what the law terms 'positive action' to help employees or job applicants it thinks:

  • are at a disadvantage because of a protected characteristic and/or
  • are under-represented in the organisation, or whose participation in the organisation is disproportionately low, because of a protected  characteristic and/or
  • have specific needs connected to a protected characteristic.

An employer must be able to show evidence that any positive action is  reasonably considered and will not discriminate against others.

Men and women in full-time or part-time employment have a right to equal pay (Sex Equality) - which in law means 'no less favourable' pay, benefits and terms and conditions in their employment contracts where they are doing equal work.

Employers and employees in the public sector, and in private or voluntary organisations carrying out work on behalf of a public sector employer, have a legal public sector equality duty in the workplace to prevent and eliminate discrimination, establish and promote equality and equal opportunities, and foster good relations between people with different protected characteristics. To find out more, visit GOV.UK - Equality.

If an employer believes it is necessary to ask health-related questions before making a job offer, it can do so only to determine whether an applicant can carry out a function essential to the role, and/or take 'positive action' to assist disabled people, and/or monitor, without revealing the candidate's identity, whether they are disabled (for example, to check whether its job advertisement is reaching disabled people), and/or confirm that a candidate has a disability where this is a genuine requirement of the job.

Asking and responding to questions of discrimination

A good practice Acas guide, pdf icon Asking and responding to questions of discrimination in the workplace [164kb] will assist parties in exchanging information.

Issues of discrimination can be complex. A written question and answer process can be particularly helpful in establishing what has happened and can help in trying to resolve concerns, avoiding claims and disputes.

The guide explains:

  • how jobseekers and employees, who think they may have been discriminated against under the Equality Act 2010, can ask questions about what may have happened to them
  • and how people or organisations, such as employers, receiving an information request can respond appropriately.

Featured Equality courses

To find out the latest courses including Equality, Diversity and Discrimination: the essentials, Equality Act - The Essentials visit our training page.

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' Workshops, projects and business solutions.

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

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