The Equality Act 2010 received Royal Assent on 8 April 2010 and nearly all of its provisions are now in force and valid law in the UK. The Act was designed to harmonise the law and bring together the many different strands of law that existed in relation to disability and discrimination. It was also needed in order to ensure the UK’s compliance with an EU directive in relation to discrimination.
The Equality Act states that a person has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment, and that impairment has a substantial (more than minor or trivial) and long term (has lasted or is likely to last more than 12 months) adverse effect on their ability to perform normal day-to-day activities. In regard to discrimination, the Act co-exists with employment law to protect those that may be discriminated against for a plethora of reasons including age, sex, race amongst others.
There are many areas of law to which the Equality Act 2010 applies. Indeed, its purpose is to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity and is not unlawfully discriminated against. This article will focus on two main areas in order to try to explain its effect in practical terms.
Under The Equality Act 2010 an employer cannot lawfully:
- Discriminate against a person because they are associated with a disabled person.
- Treat an individual less favourably because they have a disability.
- Indirectly discriminate against a disabled person without a valid legal reason.
- Directly discriminate against anyone who is wrongly assumed to be disabled.
- Victimise anyone.
The Act encompasses all areas of employment law from the content of an application form for a job, to promotions at work, to any grievance procedures. The employer is under a positive duty under the Act to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace, and the work documentation to ensure that a disabled person is not put at a disadvantage to a non-disabled person. This positive duty includes making special provisions, even if at the expense of buying new equipment, to ensure that the disabled worker is able to work without disadvantage to that of a non-disabled worker.
Under the Equality Act 2010 a landlord planning to let their property to a tenant is under a positive duty to make reasonable adjustments to that property to ensure a disabled person would not be less advantaged than a non-disabled person. This includes existing tenanted properties.
If a physical feature of a property, or something within a property, puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage the Act imposes a duty on the landlord to take reasonable steps to avoid the disadvantage. This includes any feature as a result of the construction of a building, access to and from the building, and any fixtures or fittings in the property.
As can be seen from just these two areas of law, the Equality Act is huge in scope and will be relevant across many different subject areas. What is clear is that the principle and aims of the Act are to try to ensure people with a disability are not discriminated against as a result of their disability.