The Equality Act 2010 is an amalgamation of previous anti-discrimination laws and offers a comprehensive legal basis to ensure that individuals are protected from discrimination, and that those who experience it can take action. The Act clearly defines the various types of discrimination and offers a basic framework of protection against the range of discrimination that can take place. The Equality Act 2010 is a vital reference for employers and employees alike.
Who does the Act protect?
The Act details a collection of characteristics considered to be subject to discrimination in society and in the workplace. No individual should be discriminated on the grounds of:
- being or becoming transgender or transsexual
- marital status
- being pregnant or on maternity leave
- having a disability
- race (including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin)
- religion (as practicing one or having no religion)
- sexual orientation.
The Act also specifies where these individuals can be protected from this discrimination. An individual can be protected from discrimination:
- at work
- in education
- as a consumer
- when using public services
- when buying or renting property
- as a member or guest of a private club or association.
How can businesses and managers comply?
There are several ways that employers and businesses can prevent discrimination in their recruitment process. As a minimum, tenderers should be demonstrating that they meet these requirements when answering questions around equality and diversity. This can be achieved by:
- Employers must not say that they will discriminate in job adverts.
- Employers must only outline qualifications and experience that are fundamentally necessary to complete the job in order to offer equal opportunities to all applicants.
- Employers must not inquire about the characteristics outlined in the act unless it is to positively encourage applicants or inquire about adjustments which can be made to accommodate the applicant.
- Employers should publicise job openings in a variety of locations so that a diverse pool of applicants can have the opportunity to apply.
- Employers must offer application forms or tests in different formats (e.g. Braille, audio).
- Employers must also consider the accessibility of the workplace and ensure that it is accessible.
In the workplace
Similarly, tenderers should outline how they continue to comply with the Act beyond recruitment:
- Responding to complaints
- Employers must take appropriate action and respond quickly to any reports or complaints of discrimination (e.g. employment tribunals). Employers are responsible for the discrimination by other employees unless they can demonstrate that they have taken all possible action to prevent it.
- Ensuring equality
- Employers must offer equal pay, terms and conditions, promotion, transfer opportunities, training, dismissal and redundancy procedures to all employees.
How can tenderers go above and beyond what is expected?
The Act recognises that discrimination is not always intentional. Whilst businesses may abide by the regulations outlined in the Act, they can sometimes fail to foresee the potential for discrimination or fully understand its effects.
A strong tender will not merely ‘tick the box’, instead showing how diversity is valued. For example, the tenderer may outline how they create a culture of ‘positive action’. Positive action could include individuals actively enabling, encouraging, raising awareness and making complaints when necessary to protect others from discrimination. An environment of positive action can be created by offering relevant and regular education about discrimination to all employees and by praising employees who report discrimination or recognise the potential for it.
As with all topics within tendering, bidders should remember that the process is a competition. Meeting the requirements is only the first step; at every stage tenderers should be asking themselves “what more can I do to champion diversity?” and “how can I really compete to win this contract?”