Until the Equality Act 2010 came into force in October 2010, the main pieces of equality legislation were contained in the:
- Sex Discrimination Act 1975
- Race Relations Act 1976
- Disability Discrimination Act 1995
- Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003
- Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
- Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
- Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007
All of these have now been replaced by the Equality Act 2010, which brings together and simplifies UK equality legislation. It also replaces parts of the Equality Act 2006. The Equality Act 2010 protects people from discrimination on the grounds of ‘protected characteristics’.
The Equality Act 2010 applies to charities and other Voluntary Sector organisations in their functions as employers and service providers. The importance of complying with the Act cannot be overstated – both for ethical and legal reasons. Being taken to court as a result of not complying with this law could easily bankrupt an organisation, as there is no upper limit for compensation for discrimination claims and awards don’t have to take account of your ability to pay. On a more positive note, the actions you take to comply with the law are aimed at making your employment practices and service provision fairer, which helps to improve your organisation.
It is strongly recommended that all Board Members, managers, staff and volunteers should have appropriate training or development opportunities to make sure they can comply with the law and understand best practice.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission website offers many guides to help organisations understand their responsibilities.
They also offer an Equality Act 2010 Starter Kit which can be used for staff development