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University of Bradford.

Equality and Diversity Unit

Confronting Inequality: Celebrating Diversity

Overview Of Current UK Equalities Legislation

Please note that this is intended to be a useful guide and not a statement of the law. More detailed information on the laws covering equality of opportunity should be sought via appropriate legal advice.

Treaty of Rome (1957) Article 119

In 1957 the Treaty of Rome established the European Community which was to provide for, among other things, the freedom of movement of the labour force and equality of opportunity. Article 119 of the Treaty provides that men and women should receive equal pay for equal work. For the purpose of this Article, ‘pay’ means the ordinary basic or minimum wage or salary and any other consideration whether in cash or in kind, which the work receives, directly or indirectly, in respect of his or her employment from his or her employer. Equal pay without sex discrimination, means:

Equal Pay Act 1970 (and amendments)

This Act prevents discrimination between male and female employees in the same job in relation to pay and terms and conditions. It introduced the concept of equal pay for work of equal value.

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974

Its principal effect is to allow, in certain circumstances, the convictions of offenders to become ‘spent’. This means that they do not have to be disclosed when applying for a job or for training, or when disclosing other previous convictions to a court. The type of conviction which may become spent and the time limits do vary both in terms of the offence and the sentence which was given to the offender. This legislation seeks to remove ‘previous offence discrimination’.

Sex Discrimination Act 1975

This Act makes it unlawful to treat a woman or a man less favourably in employment, training and related matters, education and the provision of goods, facilities and services on the grounds of their gender or marriage.

Race Relations Act 1976

This Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person on the grounds of race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins in employment, training and related matters, education and the provision of goods, facilities and services.

Public Order Act (1986)

Racial hatred is defined by the Public Order Act 1986 Section 17 as ‘hatred against a group of persons in Great Britain defined by reference to colour, race, nationality or ethnic origins’. The definition of ‘ethnic’ was provided in the case of Mandlau v Dovell Lee (1983). Here it was stated that an ethnic group is one that has a long and shared history, of which the group is conscious as distinguishing it from other groups, and the memory of which it kept alive and a cultural tradition of its own, including family and social customs and manners, often but not necessarily associated with religious observance.
Incitement to racial hatred is governed by section 21 of the Public Order Act 1986 which states that it will be an offence for a person to publish or distribute material which is threatening or abusive or insulting if:

Section 5 makes it a criminal offence to use threatening, abusive, insulting words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress by that behaviour. There must be a victim present at the scene for this to be deemed an offence.

The Public Order Act 1986 provides the police with powers to arrest people who engage in disorderly, threatening or insulting behaviour. This is the lowest level of public order offence designed to cover minor acts of hooliganism but does not cover behaviour that includes violence or threats of violence.

Disability Discrimination Act 1995

This Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person on the grounds of disability in the areas of employment, provision of goods, facilities and services and buying or renting land or property. Disability is defined in the Act as ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day to day duties’. ‘Long term’ is currently defined as 12 months or more, unless the person’s life expectancy is less than 12 months (for example, in some cases of cancer).

Employment Rights Act 1996

The Employment Rights Act1996 requires that certain terms and conditions must be set out in a single document – this can be a written "contract of employment" or a "statement of the main terms and conditions of employment". The written terms and conditions contain both contractual and statutory rights, that is, both those protected by law and those negotiated directly between the employer and the employee or representative.

The Act is important from an equality point of view for establishing maternity rights. However, it should be noted that some categories of worker are not covered by this legislation.

Protection from Harassment Act 1997

This Act makes it a criminal offence to harass another person or to cause a fear of violence. Unlike the Public Order Act there is no requirement to prove the offender intended their conduct to amount to harassment. Section 1 states that: a person must not pursue a course of conduct, which:

Harassment is defined as causing alarm or causing distress and states that ‘a course of conduct’ must involve conduct on at least two occasions.

Human Rights Act 1998

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) has been incorporated into UK law through the Human Rights Act. The Act introduces a range of political and civil rights. Under the Act, only a person considered a victim, who is directly affected can bring proceedings against a public authority. There are sixteen basic rights in the Act – some are absolute and some are qualified. In certain circumstances a restriction of a right can be legitimate if it is necessary to achieve the following objectives:
The restriction is -

A qualified right can only be limited if it’s in accordance with all three of the following conditions:

Crime and Disorder Act 1998

Part 2 of this Act defines racially aggravated offences. A racial incident is defined as ‘any incident in which it appears to the reporting or investigating officer that the complaint involved an element of racial motivation; or any incident which includes an allegation of racial motivation made by any person.’ The Act requires to be proved beyond reasonable doubt, either, the existence of racial hostility at the time of committing the offence, or immediately before or after doing so, or that the offence was motivated wholly or partly by racial hostility.

Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999

The regulations cover employment and vocational training only. The definition of vocational training covers the all courses provided here at the University. The regulations extend the Sex Discrimination Act (1995) to cover discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment – defined by the Sex Discrimination Act as ‘a process undertaken under medical supervision, for the purposes of reassigning a person’s sex by changing physiological or other characteristics of sex and includes any part of such a process.’ The regulations do not cover the provision of goods, facilities or services.

Article 13 of the Treaty of Amsterdam 1999

This Treaty updates the Treaty on European Union brought into force in Maastricht in 1992. It allows the European Council to prosecute Member States for failing to give equal opportunities in terms of freedom of movement of persons, social security and work opportunities. The aim of the Treaty is to increase freedom, security and justice within Europe. It achieves it by enhancing the fundamental rights of individuals, and rights of citizenship and for the first time in Europe, rights for persons that are disabled. The Treaty is made up of two types of measures. The first is legislation that is effective immediately in all of the Member States. The second is that of directives that require Member States to update their national legislation to fall in line with common standards given in the Treaty.

The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000

This Amendment places public authorities under a general duty to promote race equality. In carrying out their functions they must aim to:

The Act makes the duty proactive and also prescribes some specific duties to help achieve the aims of the general duty. Impact Assessment is one of these specific duties.

Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (2000) SENDA

Also referred to as Part 4 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. This Act relates to Education. It came into force in September 2002 and means that Universities, Colleges and Local Education Authorities have legal responsibilities not to treat disabled learners less favorably for a reason related to their disability and to provide reasonable adjustments for these students. The responsibilities are anticipatory.

The Employment Act 2002, section 42 amends the Equal Pay Act 1970 to introduce an equal pay questionnaire in employment tribunal equal pay cases. The questionnaire is not compulsory but failure to reply to it or evasive answers may lead to inferences being drawn by a tribunal.

Race Relations Act 1976 (Amendment) Regulations 2003

This legislation was derived from the EC Article 13 Race Directive which established for the first time a minimum standard of legal protection from racial discrimination across Europe. EC Directives are European Community Laws that Member states must comply with. The UK’s domestic legislation already conformed to most of the provisions of the Directive with some amendments being required to fulfill the Directive completely. The key improvements introduced were:

Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003

These came into force on 1 December 2003 making it unlawful to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation in employment and vocational training (which includes study at the University). The regulations include protection against direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, victimisation and harassment.

Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003

These came into force on 2 December 2003 and make it unlawful to discriminate on grounds of religion or belief held – or lack of religion or belief – in employment and vocational training (this includes study at the University). The regulations include protection against direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, victimisation and harassment.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (Amendment) Regulations 2003

These came into force in October 2004. They extend the provisions of the original act to cover all employers, no matter how small, no matter how few employees they have in their organisation. An estimated one million more employers were brought under the scope of the Act. Employment provisions of the Act were extended to include: contract workers, office holders, self-employed people contracted in by an organisation to provide a specific purpose, trustees/managers of occupational pension schemes and organisations which provide employment services. The Act also extended provision to cover people undertaking work experience for a limited period of time for the purposes of vocational training, including students. The regulations also developed the definition of what constitutes disability discrimination. Three kinds of discrimination are defined:

Victimisation and harassment are also specifically prohibited. The scope for reasonable adjustments has also been extended. Following the introduction of these regulations reasonable adjustments are required to any provision, practice or criterion which puts disabled people at a substantial disadvantage in comparison to non-disabled people.

The Gender Recognition Act 2004

The Act means that transsexual people can marry in their acquired gender, obtain a birth certificate recognising the acquired gender, and obtain benefits and a state pension just like anyone else of that gender.
To get this legal recognition, transsexual people have to apply to the Gender Recognition Panel and demonstrate that they have ‘gender dysphoria’, that they have lived for at least the last two years in their acquired gender, and that they intend to live in that gender until death. They must also be backed up by medical reports. ‘Gender dysphoric’ is the term used in the law for someone who identifies as the sex opposite to their physical characteristics.

Civil Partnership Act 2004

The Act allows same-sex couples to make a formal legal commitment to each other by entering into a civil partnership through a statutory civil registration procedure. This means that gay and lesbian couples who register their relationship will have similar rights and responsibilities to married couples including, for example, the right to survivors pension benefits. The Act and explanatory notes can be viewed on the HMSO website.

Disability Discrimination Act 2005

This legislation enhanced the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) in a number of ways. A primary feature is the duty on public sector bodies (of which the University is one) to promote disability equality, in much the same way that the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 requires the promotion of good race relations, and to publish a Disability Scheme. The general duty under the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 requires the University to work to:

Other provisions include an extended definition of disability*, and inclusion of General Qualification bodies, discriminatory advertisements by third parties, transport and private clubs with 25 or more members.

* Since 5 December 2005 people diagnosed with cancer, HIV infection and multiple sclerosis, but not yet showing signs of their illness, have been protected for the first time under the Disability Discrimination Act. People with a mental health impairment no longer have to prove it is ‘clinically well recognised’ before claiming rights under the DDA, These changes have significantly broadened the coverage of the DDA, and provide legal protection for a further quarter of a million people against disability discrimination.

Employment Equality (Sex Discrimination) Regulations (2005)

These regulations, which cover employment and vocational training:

Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006

These came into force on 1 October 2006 and make it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of age in all aspects of employment, including recruitment and training. The regulations do incorporate some situations where discrimination can be lawful if there is ‘objective justification’ but these are subject to strict guidelines. A default retirement age of 65 has been introduced and employers are only able to set a retirement age below 65 if it can be shown to be appropriate and necessary.

Equality Act 2006 (comes fully into force during 2007)

There are several key features to the Equality Act:

Gender: The Equality Act 2006 introduced a positive duty on public bodies (of which the University is one) to promote equality between men and women. This is similar to the established duties under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act (2000) and the Disability Discrimination Act 2005. There is now a statutory duty for the University to have due regard to the need to:

This is known as the general duty. There are a number of specific duties which aim to support the achievement of the general duty. These include producing and publishing a Gender Equality Scheme, reviewing equal pay, tackling career development and segregation, and conducting impact assessments on gender.

Single Equality Commission: The Act will also create a single Commission which will replace the Commission for Racial Equality, the Disability Rights Commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission and will cover other equality strands (such as sexual orientation, religion and belief) that currently have no Commission. The new single commission will be called the Commission for Equality and Human Rights and will come into force in October 2007.

Religion and Belief: From 6 April 2007 The Equality Act extended protection on the grounds of religion and belief to provision of goods, facilities and services, the disposal and management of premises, in education and in the exercise of public functions. This brings the regulations more in line with existing provisions on Disability, Race and Sex.

The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007:

These took effect from 30 April 2007 and made it unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation

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