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An Act to make provision to require Ministers of the Crown and others when making strategic decisions about the exercise of their functions to have regard to the desirability of reducing socio-economic inequalities; to reform and harmonise equality law and intercourse the greater part of the enactments relating to discrimination and harassment related to certain personal characteristics; to enable certain employers to be required to publish information about the differences in pay between male and female employees; to prohibit victimisation in certain circumstances; to require the exercise of certain functions to be with regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and other prohibited conduct; to enable duties to be imposed in relation to the exercise of public procurement functions; to increase equality of opportunity; to amend the law relating to rights and responsibilities in family relationships; and for connected purposes.
The act has broadly the same goals as the four major EU Equal Treatment Directives, whose provisions it mirrors and implements. However, the act also offers protection beyond the EU directives, protecting against discrimination based on a person's nationality and citizenship and also extending individuals' rights in areas of life beyond the workplace in religion or belief, disability, age, sex, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.
The Act protects people against discrimination, harassment or victimisation in employment, and as users of private and public services based on nine protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. The Act includes provisions for single-sex services where the restrictions are "a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim". In the case of disability, employers and service providers are under a duty to make reasonable adjustments to their workplaces to overcome barriers experienced by disabled people. In this regard, the Equality Act 2010 did not change the law. Under s.217, with limited exceptions the Act does not apply to Northern Ireland.
Polly Toynbee wrote that the bill, which was drafted under the guidance of Harriet Harman, was "Labour's biggest idea for 11 years. A public-sector duty to close the gap between rich and poor will tackle the class divide in a way that no other policy has... This new duty to narrow the gap would permeate every aspect of government policy. Its possible ramifications are mind-bogglingly immense." One cabinet member described it as "socialism in one clause".
However, later in 2008 the Attorney General Baroness Scotland of Asthal decided not to sponsor a change in the law of succession, saying, "To bring about changes to the law on succession would be a complex undertaking involving amendment or repeal of a number of items of related legislation, as well as requiring the consent of legislatures of member nations of the Commonwealth". The published draft bill did not contain any provisions to change the succession laws. Cognatic primogeniture for the British monarchy was instead abolished separately three years after the Equality Act came into force, with the enactment of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013.
Opposition by Roman Catholic Bishops
Although the act was never going to change the law with regard to churches from its existing position, nor change the binding European Union law which covers many more Roman Catholics than those living in the United Kingdom, and although the position had been spelled out in the High Court in R (Amicus) v Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, a small number of Roman Catholic bishops in England and Wales made claims that they might in future be prosecuted under the Equality Act 2010 for refusing to allow women, married men, transgender people, and gay people into the priesthood. This claim was rejected by the government. A spokesman said an exemption in the law "covers ministers of religion such as Catholic priests" and a document released by the Government Equalities Office states that "the Equality Bill will not change the existing legal position regarding churches and employment". The legislation was also criticised by Anglican clergy.
Certain employment is exempted from the Act, including:
Actors and models in the film, television and fashion industries (a British Chinese actress for a specific role, for instance).
Special employment training programmes aimed at ethnic minorities, ex-offenders, young adults, the long term unemployed, or people with physical or learning disabilities.
Employment where there are cultural sensitivities (such as a documentary where male victims of domestic violence need to be interviewed by a male researcher, or a gay men's domestic violence helpline).
Where safety or operational efficiency could be jeopardised.
Political parties who use 'protected characteristics' (age, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation) as candidate selection criteria; however, these 'Selection arrangements do not include short-listing only such persons as have a particular protected characteristic' other than sex, which may still be used to prejudice selection in some circumstances (e.g. all-women/all-men shortlists).
Local support staff who work in embassies and high commissions, by virtue of diplomatic immunity.
Where national security could be jeopardised.
Part 1 Socio-economic inequalities
The UK government has indicated its intention not to bring Part 1 into force with respect to UK public authorities.
However, the Scottish government has brought this section into force with respect to devolved Scottish authorities. It came into force for these authorities on 1 April 2018, with the legal requirements placed on these authorities by this part of the Act being referred to by the Scottish government as the Fairer Scotland Duty.
The Welsh government also has the power to bring this section into force with respect to devolved Welsh authorities, but has not yet done so.
to foster good relations between those who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.:Section 149
The Cabinet Office's Information Note 1/13, "Public Procurement and the Public Sector Equality Duty", noted that public authorities needed to have due regard to tis duty when planning and undertaking procurement activities, stating in particular that when contracting out public functions, it would be usual to include contract conditions which specified how equality obligations and objectives were to be complied with.
Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations
The Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011 (SI 2011/2260), made on 9 September 2011, required public authorities to publish information to demonstrate their compliance with the public sector equality duty and to identify one or more objectives which they thought they should work to achieve.
^"Myth-Busting: the Equality Bill and Religion"(PDF). Government Equalities Office. Archived from the original(PDF) on 10 January 2010. Retrieved 2010. In the case of Ministers of Religion and other jobs which exist to promote and represent religion, the Bill recognises that a church may need to impose requirements regarding sexual orientation, sex, marriage and civil partnership or gender reassignment if it is necessary to comply with its teachings or the strongly held beliefs of followers. However, it would not be right to permit such requirements across all jobs within organised religions, such as administrators and accountants, and the Equality Bill makes this clear.
^age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation
^s 13 direct discrimination, s 14 discrimination arising from disability, s 15 gender reassignment discrimination: cases of absence from work, s 16 pregnancy and maternity discrimination: non-work cases, s 17 pregnancy and maternity discrimination: work cases, s 18 indirect discrimination; Adjustments for disabled persons: s 19 duty to make adjustments, s 20 failure to comply with duty, s 21 regulations, s 22 comparison by reference to circumstances, s 23 references to particular strands of discrimination, s 24 harassment, s 25 victimisation
^Employees: s 36 Employees and applicants, s 37 Employees and applicants: harassment, s 38 contract workers; Police officers: s 39 identity of employer, s 40 interpretation; Partners: s 41, partnerships, s 42 limited liability partnerships, s 43 interpretation; The Bar: s 44 barristers, s 45 advocates; Office holders: s 46 personal offices, s 47 public offices: appointments, etc, s 48 public offices: recommendations for appointments, etc., s 49 interpretation and exceptions; Qualifications: s 50 qualification bodies, s 51 interpretation; Employment services: s 52 employment service providers, s 53 interpretation; Trade organisations: s 54 trade organisations; Local authority members: s 55 official business of members, s 56 interpretation
^s 57 Non-discrimination rule, s 58 Communications
^Sex equality: s 59 Relevant types of work, s 60 Equal work, s 61 Sex equality clause, s 62 Sex equality rule, s 63 Sex equality rule: consequential alteration of schemes, s 64 Defence of material factor, s 65 Exclusion of sex discrimination provisions, s 66 Sex discrimination in relation to contractual pay; Pregnancy and maternity equality: s 67 Relevant types of work, s 68 Maternity equality clause, s 69 Maternity equality clause: pay, s 70 Maternity equality rule, s 71 Exclusion of pregnancy and maternity discrimination provisions; Disclosure of information: s 72 Discussions with colleagues, s 73 Gender pay gap information; Supplementary: s 74 Colleagues, s 75 Interpretation and exceptions
^s 76 Ships and hovercraft, s 77 Offshore work, s 78 Interpretation and exceptions
^s 182, reasonable adjustments; s 183 improvements to let dwelling houses
^statutory provisions, national security, charities, sport, general, age