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Equality Bill set to become Equality Act

In a week which climaxed with the Grand National the much anticipated Equality Bill has made it over the finish line before the dissolution of Parliament making equality law history. The Bill is now awaiting the formality of Royal Assent and will become law once it is received.

The key provisions of the Act will come into force on October 2010, with the new Socio Economic Duty provision kicking in much later during April 2011. A clause to ban age discrimination in the provision of goods and services will be enacted in 2012. A final clause to introduce Gender Pay Audits can be triggered in 2013 should whoever is in power then choose to do so.
 
As well as unifying previous equality acts there are some key provisions of note with the new Equality Act:
  • Positive Action – where two candidates of “equal” ability apply for the same job, one may be selected based on their “characteristics”. 
  • A ban of Pre-Employment Health Questionnaires.
  • A Single Equality Duty on public authorities integrating previous equality duties and introducing protection to new groups such as Transsexuals.
  • Public Bodies will be required to conduct Gender Pay Audits where they have 150 or more employees.
  • Banning pay secrecy clauses.
  • Introducing discrimination by association as established by the “Coleman Law”, meaning other groups as well as carers will be protected where they are “linked” to an act of discrimination.
  • Protecting beliefs that go beyond the scope of the traditional religions, such as humanism or atheism.
  • Revising the definition of gender re-assignment .
  • The new Act will provide protection from Dual- Discrimination, where two or more characteristics are the cause of discrimination.
  • Allowing someone who is a victim of discrimination to claim even if they do not possess the protected characteristic that forms the basis of the discrimination. For example someone who is bullied for being homosexual may claim discrimination even if they are not actually homosexual.
Full details of the Equality Bill can be found here:
 
 
The Acts legal journey started in April 24th 2009 with its first reading and has taken less than a year to enact. Practitioners will be breathing a huge sigh of relief as the new provisions in the Act will push demand for their work higher up the organisational agenda. Had the bill not been passed in time few would have avoided falling victim to the post election public sector shake down where proposed cuts would have hit Equality and Diversity Practitioners hard.
 
Posted by Asif Yusuf
 
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