Equality Legislation

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Equality legislation – a summary

The following is a guide only to the legislation currently in place that impacts on equality and diversity issues, and is not a comprehensive list.

1970The Equal Pay Act (EPA) (as amended), makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate between men and women in terms of their pay and conditions (including pay, holiday entitlement, pension etc) where they are doing the same or similar work; work rated as equivalent; or work of equal value.

1974The Health and Safety at Work Act places a general duty on employers to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees. Employers may also be in breach of contract for failing to protect workers’ health and safety.

1975The Sex Discrimination Act (SDA) (as amended), makes it unlawful to discriminate on grounds of sex or marital status in areas such as employment, education and the provision of goods and services.

1976The Race Relations Act (RRA) (as amended) makes it unlawful to discriminate on grounds of colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origin. The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 outlaws discrimination in all public authority functions, and places a general duty on public authorities to promote race equality and good race relations. There is also a specific duty to produce a Race Equality Policy and undertake race equality impact assessments.

1994Under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, it is a criminal offence to intend to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

1995The Racial and Religious Hatred Bill (amendment to Public Order Act 1986), extends the racial hatred offences in the 1986 Act to cover stirring up hatred against persons on racial or religious grounds.

1995The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) (as amended) makes it unlawful to discriminate on grounds of disability in the areas of employment, the provision of goods and services and education. The 2005 Regulations provide new definitions of direct discrimination and harassment and widen the duty to make reasonable adjustments.

1995The Occupational Pensions (Equal Treatment) Regulations (as amended) supplement the requirements for equal treatment under the Pensions Act 1995. In particular they provide for the Equal Pay Act to have effect in relation to an equal treatment rule. The Regulations allow a court or tribunal to make a declaration as to an applicant’s rights to equal treatment. The 2005 Regulations amend the time limit for bringing proceedings before a tribunal to secure equal treatment under an occupational pension scheme.

1995The Pensions Act requires occupational pension schemes to observe the principle of equal treatment between men and women.

1996The Employment Rights Act (as amended by the Employment Relations Act 1999) covers many issues including an employee’s entitlement to maternity leave, paternity leave, adoption leave, parental leave and the right to request flexible working arrangements. It also outlaws detriment in employment and affords employees a right not to be unfairly dismissed and to receive a redundancy payment (providing qualifying criteria are met). Further Regulations elaborate on these.

1997The Protection from Harassment Act makes harassment both a civil tort and criminal offence, and although originally drafted to provide protection from stalking, covers other forms of harassment, both in and out of the workplace.

1998The Malicious Communications Act makes it an offence to send an indecent, offensive or threatening letter, electronic communication or other article to another person and the Telecommunications Act (1984) makes similar provisions in respect of telephone messages.

1998The Working Time Regulations (as amended) aim to improve health and safety by controlling working hours. The Regulations afford basic rights and protections to workers not just employees, including minimum paid annual leave...
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