Equality Act 2010 – Discrimination and Employee Rights

key legislation relating to equality and diversity

The Equality Act 2010 is key legislation relating to equality and diversity. It is essential that employers are aware of their duties under the Equality Act 2010, ensuring that they are treating all employees fairly and are not unintentionally discriminating against current or prospective employees. Discrimination means that someone is being treated unfairly because of who they are as a person. The Equality Act 2010 protects people from discrimination by:

  • employers
  • businesses and organisations
  • health and care providers
  • someone you rent or buy a property from
  • schools, colleges and other education providers
  • transport services
  • government departments and local authorities

Also, under the discrimination act there are 9 forms of protected characteristics. Under this key legislation relating to equality and diversity it is unlawful to discriminate because of one or more of the characteristics. Employers should be aware of what is included in the “protected characteristics” and how the law varies for each these.

The characteristics that are protected under the Equality Act 2010 are:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage or civil partnership (in employment only)
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

The law varies on each of the characteristics, for example in some instances an employer could potentially defend direct age discrimination if they have a strong justification. The law also varies in relation to disability and the requirement to make reasonable adjustments (Xpert HR, 2017). Generally, however, it would be considered to be unlawful to dismiss an employee based on them having one of the listed characteristics and it is essential that employers are aware of this. It is also an important point that the qualifying period of two years’ service to claim unfair dismissal does not apply in instances where the reason for dismissal is automatically unfair, dismissal based on a protected characteristic is one of the categories for automatically unfair dismissal.

Discrimination by association

Discrimination by association occurs when someone is treated unfavourably due to another person’s protected characteristic. This will usually be in relation to employee’s family members or friends that have a protected characteristic. An example of discrimination by association would be if a candidate was offered a position and this is then withdrawn once the candidate discloses that their son or daughter have a disability.

As an employer, it is essential that you understand key legislation relating to equality and diversity and ensure that you are not discriminating against job candidates or current employees. In the instance that an employer is uncertain about any matter in relation to discrimination it is recommended that employers seek advice. At HR Services Scotland any one of our HR Consultants will be able to give you further assistance on this matter.

If we can help you with this or any other HR issue, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our HR Team at HR Services Scotland Ltd on 0800 652 2610.