Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 consolidates, harmonises and extends previous equalities legislation. The main provision of the legislation came into force on 1 October 2010 and is now more consistent, clearer and easier to follow.

As a public sector organisation our responsibilities remain largely the same as previously, but there are some key differences, which you can find out more about under the section Public Sector Equality Duty

Who has responsibilities?

The Act affects us as individuals and as part of an organisation. The Act applies to the University’s service provision and employment provision and adds additional responsibilities as a public authority. This means that all of the University’s activities and functions are covered by the legislation and all of its staff are both protected and have responsibilities under the legislation.

Who is protected?

The Act protects people on the basis of their protected characteristics

Act summary

Prohibited conduct

This section includes a review of existing legislation and highlights any changes/additions as a consequence of the Equality Act 2010.

Direct discrimination

This is when someone is treated less favourably than another person because of a protected characteristic. The ‘less favourable’ treatment does not have to cause significant disadvantage and could simply be as a result of a person being treated differently because of their protected characteristic when they would have preferred to have been treated the same. Direct discrimination can still occur when both parties share the same protected characteristic that gives rise to the discrimination.

Discrimination by association

This occurs when a person is treated less favourably because they are linked or associated with someone who has a protected characteristic and do not possess that characteristic themselves. Please note: there is no protection from this form of discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity and marriage and civil partnership.

Discrimination by perception

This occurs when a person is treated less favourably because it is presumed they possess a protected characteristic, which they actually do not have.

Please note: there is no protection from this form of discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity and marriage and civil partnership.

Indirect discrimination

This occurs where a rule, policy or practice is applied equally to everyone but which disadvantages people who share a particular protected characteristic. Indirect discrimination can be justified in limited cases if it can be shown that it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim – so where the rule, policy or practice is intended to meet a legitimate objective in a fair, balanced and reasonable way. Examples of where this could occur would be the need to maintain academic/employment standards or where there are health and safety or welfare concerns. A lack of financial resources alone is unlikely to be a sufficient justification.

Please note: there is no protection from this form of discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity.

Discrimination arising from a disability

This occurs when a disabled person is treated unfavourably because of something connected with their disability and this unfavourable treatment cannot be justified. Treatment can be justified if it can be shown that it is intended to meet a legitimate objective in a fair, balanced and reasonable way.

This form of discrimination can occur only if the service provider knows or can reasonably be expected to know that the disabled person has a disability.

Reasonable adjustments

Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to their practices and premises to accommodate a disabled person, where a policy, physical feature or arrangement causes a substantial disadvantage. An anticipatory duty to make adjustments is owed to all students, under the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (2002).

A failure to make a reasonable adjustment would be unlawful expect where the adjustment is not deemed to be considered ‘reasonable’. Only a court of law can decide on the concept of reasonableness, however the sorts of factors that should be taken in to account when assessing reasonableness include the practicality of the adjustment, the impact on others, health and safety issues and the cost involved (bearing in mind the funds available to the whole organisation).

A failure to make a reasonable adjustment can be justified if the service provider did not know or could not reasonably be expected to know that the disabled person had a disability.

Harassment

Harassment is unwanted conduct which may create the effect of violating a person’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.

Differences of attitude, background or culture and the misinterpretation of social signals can mean that what is perceived as harassment by one person may not seem so to another; nevertheless, this does not make it acceptable. The defining features are that the behaviour appears or feels offensive, humiliating, hostile or intimidating to the recipient or would be so regarded by a reasonable person.

Please note: there is no protection from this form of discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity and marriage and civil partnership.

Victimisation

Victimisation occurs when someone is unfairly treated because they have supported or made a complaint, raised a grievance or because they are suspected of having done so using the Equality Act 2010. A person is not protected from victimisation if they have maliciously made or supported an untrue complaint.

Positive action

Positive action is the introduction of measures to eliminate or reduce discrimination, or its effects. Proportionate measures may be voluntarily put in place where there is evidence of disadvantage, different needs or under-representation. Examples include mentoring schemes, networks, outreach work, targeted recruitment etc.

The provisions which have been in place in the employment arena for some time are now possible within education. Additionally, a voluntary tie-breaker provision has been introduced in employment where there are two candidates of equal merit. Here, it would be lawful to appoint a candidate if the employer had identified an under-representation of staff with a particular protected characteristic.

More information about using positive action when making appointments.