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.
The 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
The 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
The 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.
The 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.
Under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, it is a criminal
offence to intend to cause harassment, alarm or distress.
The 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.
The 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.
The 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.
The Pensions Act requires occupational pension schemes to observe the
principle of equal treatment between men and women.
The 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.
The 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.
The 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.
The 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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