Equality Act approaching but businesses 'not ready'

Businesses need to prepare for the Equality Act, which is expected to come into effect in October, Womenintechnology.co.uk has warned.

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Businesses need to prepare for the Equality Act, which is expected to come into effect in October, Womenintechnology.co.uk has warned.

The Act, which received Royal Assent in April, aims to simplify and strengthen existing discrimination law, and implements new legal provisions.

Combined or dual discrimination is an example of a new provision, which allows employees to bring a claim against treatment that has happened because of two protected characteristics. For instance, if an employee is not promoted because of their sex and race.

Maggie Berry, managing director of womenintechnology.co.uk, said: “The Government Equalities Office predicts that allowing combined discrimination will result in a 10% increase in claims – and that is only one of the many changes.

“Being up-to-date with these aspects of employment law will both protect businesses from legal challenges and also protect a bigger proportion of the workforce from being discriminated against.”

The new Act will also extend the scope of existing legislation to increase the protection for disabled employees, for example, by discouraging employers from asking health enquiries before offering employees a job, unless it is strictly necessary.

Furthermore, organisations in the public sector will need to produce reports on their gender pay gap and ethnic minority and disability statistics by April 2011.

Jennifer Bartlett, solicitor at law firm Kingsley Napley, added: "The changes introduced by the Equality Act will help to simplify our existing employment laws, which is good news for employers and employees.

“Employers frequently have issues with discrimination when they are not aware of the current law. Keeping up-to-date now will help avoid difficulties later on down the line."

The main provisions of the new Equality Act will come into effect in October, with the remainder due in April 2011.

More details about the Act can be found in Womenintechnology.co.uk and Kingsley Napley’s whitepaper, which can be accessed for free here.

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