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September 29, 2010

Equality Act updates come into force in October

As changes to the Equality Act kick in on 1st October 2010, it’s vital you have prepared documentations, company policies and briefed all staff.


The Big Changes

There are numerous changes to the policy and it’s vital you read through it all, you can see the full list of changes here.

However there are some key changes that will affect you and your staff immediately.

  • Discrimination: simplifies the definition to less favourable treatment due to any protected characteristic, such as sex, age, race, religion, disability, orientation, beliefs or gender reassignment. It also makes clear that harassment or discrimination of an individual because of a member of their family has a protected characteristic also constitutes direct discrimination.
  • Third party liability: you are now liable for the actions of customers and clients as well as your employees. The policy sets out that if on two occasions harassment has happened to your knowledge and you have not taken steps to prevent it happening again, an employee can make a claim against you. This can also work in the reverse, as a customer or client can make a claim against you if they have been harassed by one of your employees.
  • Pay secrecy: The new policy doesn’t ban pay and bonus secrecy clauses. But makes them unenforceable. It also protects an individual from victimisation if action is taken against them for discussing their pay with their colleagues.


Make Sure You’re Ready For The Change

The first key thing to do is to review the existing policies you have in all areas of discrimination. Make sure they’re still relevant, and make changes to update them if not as a priority.
Discuss the changes with your managers, at every level. Ensure they understand the adjustments they might have to make to the way they speak to, and interview, employees. Offer further training or help if they are not clear on the changes.
Make sure you cover both aspects of the policy, by offering training and information sessions to all staff to ensure they know what to do if they experience harassment or discrimination.
It may be that you also have to consider the impact of the policy on contractors, clients and commercial contacts so don’t forget this. Advice sheets, short training sessions or informative meetings are a good way to share the changes with a range of people.

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