The Government has published details of the Equality Act 2010, which will begin to come into force on the 1st of October 2010. It will replace various anti-discrimination laws including the Equal Pay Act 1970, Sex Discrimination Act 1975, and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. The aim of the new legislation is to bring these various acts together in one place and make the law easier to understand and follow.
The new act will have many implications for employers and employees. Under the act, employers cannot discriminate against individuals' physical or mental disabilities; however there are now exceptions to this. Addictions including alcohol and nicotine will not be classed as an 'impairment' that could prevent a worker carrying out their job. Seasonal allergies such as hay fever are not classed as an impairment. Mental health conditions such as compulsion towards exhibitionism, voyeurism and fire-raising are, perhaps sensibly, also specifically excluded.
The Act will ban pay secrecy or gagging clauses that stop employees discussing their pay with their colleagues. This could have far reaching implications for employers. If large discrepancies due to age or gender are discovered through a 'relevant pay disclosure' and an employee wishes to make a claim if they feel they have been discriminated against, any such clause in a contract of employment would be unenforceable in these circumstances.
Employment tribunals will also be given the power to make recommendations to an employer regarding the implementation of policy that will be of benefit to a workforce as a whole, not just a successful claimant.
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