The UK Equality Act 2010 came into force on 1st October 2010, and is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Equality Act has the same goals as the four major EU Equal Treatment Directives, whose provisions it mirrors and implements.
The primary purpose of the UK Equality Act is to codify the complicated and numerous array of Acts and Regulations, which formed the basis of anti-discrimination law in Great Britain. The act requires equal treatment in access to employment as well as private and public services, regardless of the protected characteristics of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
The U.K. Equality Act 2010 makes it law that every private, public and voluntary organization must not discriminate against employees and people that use their services because of particular characteristics. The Act brings together all previous equality laws, making them simpler, more effective and easier to understand.
The UK Equality Act gives disabled people rights in the areas of:
The 1995 UK Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) aimed to protect disabled people against discrimination - both in employment and when using a service or facility. The government implemented the legislation in three phases:
You now have to make 'reasonable adjustments' to your premises in order to make your services accessible to disabled people. This might include putting up clearer signs for visually impaired customers, installing an induction loop for deaf people or installing ramps/handrails to improve disabled access correct table/counter heights, highlighting danger areas or removing obstacles all complying to British standard BS8300 and Part M of the buildings regulations. Problems and solutions vary from business to business. The law says you can make the alterations in four ways:
The UK Equality Act 2010 refers to 'reasonable adjustments'. If the cost of an alteration would put you out of business an access audit would note this in a report of your building and attempt to find a more reasonable solution still giving you compliance.
That's no argument under the law.
The duties are 'anticipatory' so saying you have no disabled customers will not provide any legal protection.
The duty to make reasonable adjustments is a key issue for property managers.
The Royal Bank of Scotland was recently ordered by the Court of Appeal to install a lift in its branch for disabled customers. This was despite the Bank having installed lifts into three other branches within the area. The cost of the lift was approximately L200,000 and the Bank was also ordered to pay L6,500 in damages to the disabled customer.
A property owner or occupier may be required to make a reasonable adjustment to his premises following a request from a disabled person in order to facilitate access to goods or services. Whether a requested adjustment is reasonable will depend on the circumstances.
If a tenant is required to make an adjustment, he may need to apply for consent from his landlord. The tenant will also want to ensure that any such adjustments are not rentalised.
Once the Act comes into force, a landlord may be required to make a reasonable adjustment to the common parts of a building. This is a new duty and only applies to buildings which contain residential areas. The duty also only applies if the disabled person is suffering a significant disadvantage through his use of the common parts.
If it is agreed that any reasonable adjustments are required then the landlord could insist that the disabled person pays for works (paragraph 7(3), Schedule 4 of the Act). This is an exception to the general provision contained at section 27(7) of the Act prohibiting a disabled person from being charged for reasonable adjustments.
There are restrictions on how listed buildings can be altered, but they are not exempt.
Businesses that operate from listed buildings need to take specialist advice about how to remove access barriers.
There is a possibility of having to defend a costly legal action. But there is also a pressing economic argument, the DRC estimates that disabled people's spending power amounts to £50bn. Per year It argues that ignoring the UK Equality Act laws means losing custom - especially if competitors have already made improvements.
It is a fact that between 14% and 24% of the population has a disability or is closely involved with a disabled person. That is a quarter of all potential customers or employees. It is estimated that disabled people have a spending power of between £45 & £50 Billion per year. The improvements suggested by the UK Equality Act will benefit them and encourage them to do business with you. In addition, many of the improvements will also benefit other customers, such as parents with pushchairs, people carrying heavy shopping etc.
As a service provider under the UK Equality Act. You are likely to get significantly more customers and bring considerable benefit to your existing customers by meeting the recommendations
Because most barriers can be easily and inexpensively removed it is vital to clearly establish low cost and reasonable initiatives that avoid unnecessary expenditure on extravagant provisions. In recent research by the Disability Rights Commission it was found that despite one in ten businesses stating that they would prefer not to have to make their premises accessible for disabled people, eight out of ten predicted a positive rise in profits after improving access for disabled people. Businesses need to know that reasonable adjustments are all that is required by the UK Equality Act. An access audit will take into account your business turn- over and make suggestions that are reasonable to you and your business.
By arranging an access audit of your business and receiving a full access report, you will have shown to the UK Equality Act that you have made the first steps to complying with the act. An access audit will identify the main problem areas, always looking at what is "reasonable adjustment" for your business.
An Access Audit is an examination of a building; it's facilities and services, against pre-determined criteria to assess its ease of use by disabled people. The reasons for carrying out an Access Audit are to meet the legislative requirements of the UK Equality Act and improve access and in turn increase your custom and turnover.
The UK Equality Act has often become a major headache for many businesses. It is the job of an access auditor to help remove that headache and help keep you and your business on the right side of the law.