The Equality Act 2010 which came into force on 1 October, includes the provision to make pay secrecy clauses unenforceable and allows claims for direct gender pay discrimination.
The Act will provide a new legislative framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all; update, simplify and strengthen the previous legislation; and deliver a simple, modern and accessible framework of discrimination law which protects employees from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society.
The provisions in the Equality Act 2010 will come into force at different times to allow time for the people and organisations affected by the new laws to prepare for them. The government is considering how the different provisions will be commenced so that the Act is implemented in an effective and proportionate way.
Provisions that come into force on 1 October 2010 include:
- The basic framework of protection against direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation in services and public functions; premises; work; education; associations, and transport.
- Making pay secrecy clauses unenforceable.
- Introducing new powers for employment tribunals to make recommendations which benefit the wider workforce.
- Allowing claims for direct gender pay discrimination where there is no actual comparator.
- Extending protection from indirect discrimination to disability.
- Applying the detriment model to victimisation protection (aligning with the approach in employment law).
- Making it more difficult for disabled people to be unfairly screened out when applying for jobs, by restricting the circumstances in which employers can ask job applicants questions about disability or health.
Theresa May, home secretary and minister women and equality, said: “By making the law easier to understand, the Equality Act will help business treat staff fairly and meet the needs of all their customers.
“As well as making things simpler, there are also a few changes coming in. For example, employers will have a responsibility to take action if their staff face repeated harassment from customers. Also, you will only be allowed to ask a potential employee about their health before offering them a job under certain circumstances.”
Caroline Carter, head of employment practice at Ashurst, aded: “Representing one of the most historic pieces of employment legislation in recent years, the Equality Act 2010 not only consolidates and harmonises our piecemeal discrimination law, dating back to the seventies, but also strengthens our equality laws by creating several important new provisions.
“Key beneficiaries are those suffering from a disability as significant new restrictions on the health questions an employer can ask a job applicant pre job-offer are introduced together with a new head of claim for those claiming disability discrimination.
“Also the gender pay gap and discriminatory pay practices of any sort are tackled head on, as clauses in employment contracts which ban employees from discussing their pay or bonuses with colleagues become unenforceable against employees who discuss these matters for the purpose of finding out whether pay rates are discriminatory.”