The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act became law in October 2010. It replaces previous equalities legislation (such as the Race Relations Act 1976 and Disability Discrimination Act 1995).

The Act covers the same groups that were protected by existing equality legislation – age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity. These are now called ‘protected characteristics’ (PC’s).

The Public Sector Equality Duty

The public sector equality duty, also known as the general duty came into force on 6th April 2011, and replaces the separate duties relating to race, disability, and gender equality. In the exercise of its functions the University must have due regard to the need to;

  • Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimization, and other conduct prohibited by the act.
  • Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.
  • Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.

Under this duty the University will;

  • Collect and publish its equality information
  • Engage with staff and students on equality issues
  • Identify and publish a set of equality objectives
  • Undertake Equality Impact Assessments

Types Of Discrimination Under the Act

Direct Discrimination

Direct discrimination occurs when someone is treated less favourably than another person because of a protected characteristic.

Associative discrimination

Already applies to race, religion or belief and sexual orientation. Now extended to cover age, disability, gender reassignment and sex. This is direct discrimination against someone because they associate with another person who possesses a protected characteristic.

Perceptive discrimination

Already applies to age, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation. Now extended to cover disability, gender reassignment and sex. This is direct discrimination against an individual because others think they possess  a  particular protected characteristic.

Indirect discrimination

Already applies to age, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation and marriage and civil partnership. Now extended to cover disability and gender reassignment.

Indirect discrimination can occur when you have a condition, rule, policy or even a practice in your company that applies to everyone but particularly disadvantages people who share a protected characteristic.

Discrimination arising from a disability

The Act includes a new protection from discrimination arising from disability. This states that it is discrimination to treat a disabled person unfavourably because of something connected with their disability (eg a tendency to make spelling mistakes arising from dyslexia). This type of discrimination is unlawful where the employer or other person acting for the employer knows, or could reasonably be expected to know, that the person has a disability.

Harassment

The Equality Act 2010 also prohibits further and higher education institutions from harassing students covered by the education provisions. Harassment is defined as unwanted behaviour related to a protected characteristic, or which is of a sexual nature, that violates a person’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating of offensive environment.

For further information see the Dignity and Respect web pages.

Victimisation

The Equality Act 2010 also prohibits further and higher education institutions from victimising staff and students covered by the education provisions.

Victimisation is defined in the Act as:

Treating someone badly because they have done a ‘protected act’ (or because the institution believes that a person has or is going to do a protected act).

A ‘protected act’ is:

  • Making a claim or complaint of discrimination (under the Equality Act).
  • Helping someone else to make a claim by giving evidence or information.
  • Making an allegation that the further or higher education institution or someone else has breached the Act.
  • Doing anything else in connection with the Act.

The University condemns all types of discrimination for any of the protected characteristics for example because of age, disability, gender reassignment*, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity. This includes any form of behaviour which leads to discrimination, harassment or victimisation.

*Gender reassignment is the legal term used within the Equality Act. There is no requirement for any medical intervention for an individual to be covered under the Equality Act and we would interpret gender reassignment to cover gender identity and gender expression more widely.

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