Is your business equal to the Equality Act- With the declared aim of 'making Britain a more equal society', the coalition government has announced that the long awaited Equality Act will go ahead as planned by the previous administration.
With the declared aim of 'making Britain a more equal society', the coalition government has announced that the long awaited Equality Act will go ahead as planned by the previous administration. While broadly welcomed by solicitors like Oxley and Coward LLP, the new Act will have profound implications for employers and employees alike in this region and nationwide.
The provisions of the new Act will be phased in from October this year to give both employers and employees time to adjust. The intention is to update, simplify and strengthen previous legislation but how far this will improve equality in the workplace and more generally in society remains to be seen.
"Bringing nine separate pieces of legislation into one single Act should be a help for everyone," said Dawn Cherry, Employment Lawyer from Oxley and Coward. "Simplifying the law should reduce the burden on business by making it easier for firms to comply with discrimination law. In the place of a set of laws, there will now be just one equality law, which should reduce some of the current confusion that can surround discrimination issues."
The act will also bring into force some provisions that are completely new and any business unsure of how the new Act will affect them are advised to consult a solicitor on some of the proposed changes.
"The new provisions cover dual discrimination, direct discrimination and various forms of harassment," added Dawn. "There will also be restrictions on things like employers asking about health and disability issues before deciding whether to offer employment. For some this could mean adjustments to the standard application process to avoid falling foul of the new law."
The Government Equalities Office (GEO) has published a number of guides outlining what the Act will mean for business and the public, although a solicitor should be the first port of call to consider the practical implications of changes in the law. With the Act set to be phased in from 1 October, businesses will need to act now to check they are not acting in a way which is likely to run contrary to the new provisions.
The Home Secretary and new Minister for Women and Equalities, Teresa May said, "By making the law easier to understand, the Equality Act will help business treat staff fairly and meet the needs of a diverse customer base."
As well as having implications for business, the new Act will also ultimately affect everyone, including the public sector, voluntary sector and the public. As well as implications for employees, businesses who deal with the public will also have to ensure they do not discriminate in terms of sex or age. Dawn believes while a lead in period is helpful, there is no time like the present for getting to grips with the key changes.
"It will take all of us some time to adjust to a new range of both rights and responsibilities," concluded Dawn. "The initial introduction of the Act may pass un-noticed by many, but as employees and the public more generally become more aware of their rights under the Act, business will ignore the changes and thrust of the new provisions at their peril."
If you are concerned about the implications of the act on your business, contact the Employment team at Oxley and Coward now on 01709 510999 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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