11 May 2010
The Equality Act received Royal Assent on 8 April 2010, after completing its process through parliament where MPs approved the House of Lords amendments.
The UKRC welcomes the passing of the Equality Act, which contains several measures for tackling inequality which we hope will help Britain to become a fairer society for women working in science, engineering and technology (SET).
The Equality Act 2010 has two main aims:
- To strengthen the law to promote progress on equality
- To harmonise discrimination law
The act includes a variety of measures linked directly to gender equality which the UKRC has supported. These include:
- Allowing the Government to compel private sector organisations with at least 250 employees to publish details about their gender pay gap from 2013 onwards
- Public Sector organisations with over 150 employees will be required to publish details of their gender pay gap (among other statistics) from 2011 onwards
- Employers will be unable to rely on a secrecy clause in an employment contract to prevent disclosure of information which could be used to support an equal pay claim.
- Tribunals will be able to make recommendations that benefit the workforce as a whole, even if the employee bringing the claim has left.
In addition, although currently measures to encourage applications from disadvantaged groups are allowed, positive discrimination at the point of recruitment is not. The Act implements one relatively modest change to this rule, so that employers selecting from two or more equally qualified candidates will be allowed to choose the one belonging to a protected group.
The opening clauses in the Act introduce a new duty for strategic authorities to have due regard to need to reduce inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage. This will apply to named organisations – including government departments, local authorities, primary care trusts and strategic health authorities – but only when making decisions of a strategic nature. Higher education institutions will not generally be affected by this duty.
The existing generic public sector duties will be extended across all the main discrimination strands by creating a new single duty to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and promote equality of opportunity. So in addition to race, disability and sex, the new duties will apply to religion, sexual orientation and age when public authorities exercise their functions.
The progress of the Act can be reconstructed here on the Parliament website. Additional background information is available on the Government Equalities Office’s dedicated page here.