The Equality Act 2010 (“EqA 2010”) was introduced to provide a single approach to the previous discrimination protection that existed in Great Britain that stretched across numerous different pieces of legislation.
EqA 2010 seeks to protect workers, job applicants and, in some circumstances, former workers from discrimination and harassment in respect of a number of “protected characteristics”, namely:
- Religion or belief
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Sexual orientation
- Gender reassignment
Various types of discrimination are covered by the EqA 2010 in relation to these protected characteristics, including:
- Direct discrimination
- Indirect discrimination
This occurs where A treats B less favourably than others because of a protected characteristic. For example, an employer would directly discriminate against an employee if it dismissed them on the grounds of his or her sex or religion.
This may occur where an employer’s acts, decisions or policies are not intended to treat anyone less favourably, but which in practice have the effect of disadvantaging a group of people with a particular protected characteristic. For example, an employer’s requirement for full-time working could disadvantage women, who are likely to have the greatest childcare responsibilities, and could therefore be indirectly discriminatory against a woman with childcare responsibilities, unless the employer can objectively justify the need for a full-time worker to do the job.
This may occur where A engages in unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic which has the purpose or effect of violating B’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B. For example, shunning a co-worker because he is gay (or perceived to be gay), or engaging in racist or homophobic banter that might affect colleagues regardless of their race or sexual orientation.
This may occur where an employer subjects an employee to a detriment because the employee has done (or might do) a ‘protected act’, such as bringing discrimination claims or complaining about harassment. It is usually alleged to have been committed by an employer that is already the subject of a discrimination complaint by a current or former employee.
Liability & Remedies
The scope of an employer’s liability for a discriminatory act is wide and can cover both its own acts and those of others, e.g. other workers and agents.
The most common remedy for a successful discrimination claim is compensation and, unlike most other tribunal claims, there is no cap on the amount that may be awarded.
Talk To Us
If you need any support in this area, please get in touch with a member of our team.