The Equality Act 2010 a summary guide

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1 The Equality Act 2010 a summary guide

2 The Equality Act 2010 a summary guide This factsheet is part of our Your rights range. You will find it useful if you are a person with hearing loss and want to find out about the Equality Act The Equality Act brings together and replaces previous equality legislation such as the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA). It simplifies and updates the law and strengthens it in important ways. Read this factsheet to find out: What protection does the Equality Act provide? Am I protected under the Equality Act? What is a disability? Who has responsibilities under the Equality Act? What are the different types of discrimination? What other changes are there? What do I do if I have a complaint? Where can I get more information? If you would like this factsheet on audio tape, in Braille or in large print, please contact our helpline see front page for contact details. Disclaimer This information is not legal advice and you should not rely on it as such. You should consider taking independent legal advice from a solicitor or other qualified legal adviser. We do not accept any liability for any actions or failures to act, which you or anyone else may or may not take on the basis of the information contained in this factsheet. What protection does the Equality Act provide? The Equality Act protects people against unfair treatment (discrimination) on the grounds covered by the previous laws. These are called the protected characteristics. They are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. The Equality Act applies in England, Wales and Scotland but not Northern Ireland. Most of the provisions came into force on 1 October 2010 but some things are yet to be introduced. The Equality Act provides broadly the same kind of protection as before, but there are some changes. Many of these will benefit disabled people. The new law will protect you from discrimination on other grounds, too for example, because of your sex or race. The Equality Act 2010 a summary guide, Action on Hearing Loss Information, March

3 This factsheet outlines the disability provisions of the Equality Act. They will be explained more fully in the other factsheets in this series. Am I protected under the Equality Act? The Equality Act covers people who have, or have had, a disability. If you met the definition of a disabled person under the DDA, you will now be covered by the Equality Act in the same way. The Equality Act also extends to people who are discriminated against because of their association with someone who has a disability or because they are thought to be disabled. What is a disability? A disability is a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. This is the same as the DDA definition but you no longer have to show that the impairment affects a specific capacity, such as speech, hearing or eyesight. Who has responsibilities under the Equality Act? Like the DDA, the Equality Act puts duties on employers, service providers, those who carry out public functions, private clubs, educational bodies, landlords and transport providers, among others. For simplicity, this factsheet refers only to employers, service providers and public bodies. What are the different types of discrimination? The Equality Act protects you against various forms of discrimination and also harassment and victimisation. These are outlined below. Direct discrimination This occurs where, because of disability, you receive less favourable (worse) treatment than someone who is not disabled. This was already the law in relation to work but it s now extended to other areas such as buying goods and services. Direct discrimination includes worse treatment because of your association with someone who has a disability, for example as a carer of a disabled child (discrimination by association). This, too, was previously only applied in relation to work but it s now extended to other areas. It now also includes worse treatment because you re mistakenly thought to have a disability (discrimination by perception). Discrimination arising from disability This is where you re treated unfavourably because of something connected with your disability (rather than because of the disability itself). But it s not discrimination if the employer or service provider can The Equality Act 2010 a summary guide, Action on Hearing Loss Information, March

4 justify how they treat you, or they didn t know that you re disabled. This replaces disability-related discrimination under the DDA, which became ineffective after a court ruling. Justifying treatment means showing that it is a fair, reasonable and balanced way to meet a legitimate aim. Indirect discrimination This happens when a rule, policy or practice is applied to everyone but it has a particular disadvantage for disabled people. But it s not discrimination if it can be justified, as described above. This is the first time indirect discrimination has applied to disability. Failure to comply with the duty to make reasonable adjustments The duty requires reasonable adjustments to be made if you re put at a substantial disadvantage by: a provision, criterion or practice (the way things are done) a physical feature (such as steps to a building), or the absence of an auxiliary aid or service (such as an induction loop or an interpreter). Substantial means more than minor or trivial. If the adjustments are not made (for instance, providing the induction loop or interpreter), this is discrimination. The duty is now the same for employers and service providers. Previously, service providers only had to make changes when their service was impossible or unreasonably difficult to use much harder for a disabled person to show. The new duty also emphasises the importance of providing information in accessible formats, and makes it clearer that you can t be charged for adjustments. Harassment related to disability This is unwanted behaviour that has the purpose or effect of violating a person s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them. This now applies to services as well as at work. You will now also be protected if you re harassed because you associate with someone who has a disability or because someone wrongly thinks (perceives) you have a disability. If you re an employee you can now complain of behaviour that you find offensive even if it s not directed at you. And if your employer knows that you re being harassed by third parties such as customers, and does nothing to prevent it, he will be responsible. Victimisation This occurs when you re treated badly because you ve made or supported a complaint under the Equality Act (or you re suspected of doing so), provided you believed the complaint was true. It applies whether or not you re disabled. You no longer have to show you ve been treated worse than someone else just badly. The Equality Act 2010 a summary guide, Action on Hearing Loss Information, March

5 What other changes are there? Enquiries about disability and health Enquiries about your health or disability before an employer offers you work are now banned, except for specific purposes such as to monitor equality, or to see if you need reasonable adjustments for the recruitment process, or to establish if you could carry out a function essential to the job. Only the Equality and Human Rights Commission can enforce this provision. But if an employer asks you a question that isn t allowed and you think you ve been turned down because of your disability, that would be direct discrimination and you could complain. Positive action Apart from protecting people from unfair treatment, the Equality Act seeks to promote equality of opportunity. It allows employers and service providers to take positive steps to help groups of people who are disadvantaged or have particular needs or are under-represented in particular activities. Positive action is voluntary and it must be proportionate to what it is trying to achieve. The law still allows disabled people to be treated more favourably than non-disabled people. But positive action can now be used to give preferential treatment to people with a particular disability (for example, employment programmes specifically for people with learning difficulties). The Equality Act also gives employers the option, when faced with candidates of equal merit, to choose a candidate from a disadvantaged or under-represented group (for example, a male teacher in a primary school where there are no male staff). This provision takes effect on 6 April The Public Sector Equality Duty The Public Sector Equality Duty, which replaces the Disability Equality Duty (DED), comes into force on 6 April Public bodies must have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations. They must consciously think about these aims in making decisions. The new duty recognises that the needs of disabled people are different from others and public bodies must take account of their disabilities. Most public bodies will also have specific duties to support the general duty. They will have to set objectives and publish information to show how they have performed. Separate specific duties will apply to Scottish and Welsh public bodies. Other provisions The government is still considering the introduction of dual discrimination (for instance if you are discriminated against because you are both disabled and a woman); a duty on schools to provide The Equality Act 2010 a summary guide, Action on Hearing Loss Information, March

6 auxiliary aids and services; the right to request reasonable adjustments to common areas in blocks of flats; and provisions about taxi accessibility. What do I do if I have a complaint? The Equality Act gives you the same rights to take action as the DDA. If it s a work issue, you can take your case to the Employment Tribunal. If it s a goods or services issue, you can take proceedings in the county court (or in Scotland, the sheriff court). Employment tribunals have new powers to make recommendations to help other workers as well as yourself. As with the DED, you don t have individual rights to enforce the equality duty, but it may be possible to challenge a public body s actions (or lack of action) by asking the High Court for a judicial review. Where can I get more information? Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) The EHRC helpline gives information and guidance on discrimination and human rights issues. England: FREEPOST RRLL-GHUX-CTRX, Arndale House, Arndale Centre, Manchester M4 3AQ Telephone Textphone Fax Wales: FREEPOST RRLR-UEYB-UYZL, 3rd Floor 3 Callaghan Square, Cardiff CF10 5BT Telephone Textphone Fax Scotland: FREEPOST RRLL-GYLB-UJTA, Optima Building, 58 Robertson Street, Glasgow G2 8DU Telephone Textphone Fax Further information from Action on Hearing Loss Our helpline offers a wide range of information on many aspects of hearing loss. You can contact us for further copies of this factsheet and our full range of factsheets and leaflets. We can also provide you with materials and advice to help you encourage local services to become more accessible see the cover page for contact details. Action on Hearing Loss Information, March 2011 The Royal National Institute for Deaf People. Registered Office: Featherstone Street, London EC1Y 8SL. A company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales No , Registered Charity Numbers (England and Wales) and SC (Scotland). The Equality Act 2010 a summary guide, Action on Hearing Loss Information, March

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