The Act was a consolidation, rationalisation, harmonisation and revision of various existing employment law acts and regulations including, The Equal Pay Act 1970, The Sex Discrimination Act 1975, The Race Relations Act 1976, The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and various Employment Equality regulations which related to Religious beliefs, sexual orientation and age.
- The Act consolidated the disparate groups protected under these Acts and statutory instruments as individuals with ‘protected characteristics.’
- Direct discrimination is dealt with under section 13 of the Act, and applies to all individuals with protected characteristics and Indirect discrimination was given a clear definition in section 19.
- Employees mistakenly perceived of having a protected characteristic, and employees associated with someone with a protected characteristic who as a consequence are treated less favourably by their employer were given a measure of statutory protection.
- Tribunals were given the power to make recommendations for the benefit of members of the workforce, other than the applicant.
- The public sector equality duty was established. The duty applies to public bodies, and to other organisations, and requires authorities “when making decisions of a strategic nature about how to exercise its functions, to have due regard to the desirability of exercising them in a way that is designed to reduce the inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage”.
- Statutory questionnaires introduced under s138 sent to employers by prospective tribunal claimants who considered that they had been discriminated against were of considerable help to claimants, but were withdrawn in 2013 under the ERRA 2013.
- Protection against harassment by third parties was extended to all protected characteristics, but employer liability for third party harassment was withdrawn by the ERRA 2013.
- Caste discrimination can be incorporated under the Act if a Minister makes an order to include ‘caste’ within the definition of race. In 2016, the Conservative government announced that it was to open a consultation on the matter.
- Gender Pay Gap Information under s78 was implemented in 2016, and the first reports from firms with 250 or more employees are required to be published in April 2018.
- Permits claims for direct gender pay discrimination without a comparator.
- Pay secrecy clauses became unenforceable.
- It is no longer a requirement for medical supervision in relation to gender reassignment to get protection for discrimination and harassment, and the ‘association’ aspect provides for a direct discrimination claim if you are the partner of a transsexual.
- The complicated concept of ‘disability related’ discrimination, was replaced by ‘discrimination arising from disability.’ The old requirement to show unjustified less favourable treatment became a requirement only to show that unfavourable treatment has been meted out ‘because of something arising in consequence of [the claimant’s] disability.’
- There is no longer any need for a comparator and Claims can only be brought by those who are themselves disabled.
- Employers are permitted to justify disability related discrimination by showing that it is a proportionate means towards a legitimate end.
- A failure in certain circumstances by an employer to make physical ‘reasonable adjustments’ to the workplace, and to provisions, criteria and practices which put an ‘interested disabled person’ at a ‘substantial disadvantage’, or to fail to provide certain auxiliary aids or services can now amount to unlawful discrimination.
- The Act restricted the scope for employers to ask about disability and health, and to require applicants to undergo health tests during the recruitment process.
- However, there is an exception where an employee is required to undertake duties for which a pre-employment health check is essential, and health checks after an offer of employment has been made, are not subject to restriction.