Acas, the employment relations service, has published new guidance to assist businesses in understanding and preparing for the changes to the new single Equality Act.
The new Acas quick start guidance, 'The Equality Act - what's new for employers' demonstrates what these changes mean in practice.
John Taylor, chief executive of Acas, said: "Fairness in the workplace is good business and motivates staff as well as improving effectiveness and productivity. Last year Acas received around 32,000 calls on diversity and discrimination related issues. Our new guide helps businesses and managers understand what the changes mean in practice and what action employers will need to take."
Changes have occurred in the following areas: third party harassment, pre-employment health checks, power of employment tribunal recommendations and pay secrecy.
The new act means employers are potentially liable if their staff are harassed by people they don't employ such as external suppliers or customers.
From October employers should no longer send out pre-health questionnaires with employment application packs. There are some exemptions, for example around questions related to making reasonable adjustments for the person in the selection process if they are disabled.
Employment tribunals can require employers found guilty of discrimination to take steps to require them to change their policies and practices to prevent further discrimination.
If a contract of employment requires employees to keep pay secret, the Equality Act makes this requirement unenforceable. An employer can still require employees to keep pay rates confidential from others outside the workplace, such as competitors.
The new changes come into effect from October and so it is imperative that businesses understand the changes which will impact them, and have reviewed and updated current policies by this date. The new quick start guidance is available to download on the Acas website, along with a table that provides a snapshot of where changes and new areas have been added.
About Acas:Acas' aim is to improve organizations and working life through better employment relations. It provides information, advice, staff training such as training explains current legislation related to employment law and a range of services working with employers and employees to prevent or resolve problems and improve performance. It is an independent statutory body governed by a council consisting of the Acas chair and employer, trade union and independent members. This can be found at the Acas website.