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Equality Act 2010

09 November 2010

The main elements of Harriet Harman’s Equality Act 2010 came into force in October, introducing some new and tricky areas for employers, says a Willans solicitor.

The Act purports to harmonise and rationalise discrimination law and to provide a better framework within which to prohibit the various types of unlawful discrimination.

  • It brings in various new aspects of discrimination such as ‘prohibition of harassment by a third party’, ‘discrimination by perception’ and ‘associative discrimination’. Without going into detail, the overall effect of these is to widen the extent to which actions by employers, or those associated with them, may be deemed to be unlawful in the context of discrimination.
  • The Act also tackles the supposed problem of discrimination against job seekers who have had long-term health problems. With certain limited exceptions, employers are no longer safe to ask about previous ill health or absences from work before making an offer of employment.
  • Employers who ignore the ban run a very real risk of a claim being brought by an unsuccessful and disgruntled applicant. He would be able to cite the employer’s breach in asking prohibited questions as the basis of his assumption that his failure to succeed at interview was because of his disability/ill health.

Of all the changes brought in by this new Act, this particular aspect is the single most problematic and controversial for employers and one that will, without doubt, lead to a great deal of difficulty in the workplace.

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