The Equality Act of 2010 is a piece of government legislation that outlines how people can be protected from discrimination in the workplace. It serves to replace multiple pieces of previous legislation and pull everything together in one document and one law.
The Equality Act is super important information for anyone who is disabled. It is vital that you know your rights and that you know what constitutes inappropriate and unlawful behaviour so that you can protect yourself in the world of work and employment.
At Careers with Disabilities, we want to help disabled people enter careers, stay there, and be happy there. As such, we want to help you know how to protect yourself and how to say safe. We have curated this blog to tell you all about The Equality Act and how it applies to you in a way that gets rid of a lot of complicated legal jargon and keeps things easy and accessible.
Information is only worthwhile when it is accessible.
Why the Equality Act Exists
The Equality Act exists so that people can be protected from discrimination, harassment, and inequality in the workplace. It aims to increase opportunities for equality and decrease the opportunities for unfair and unlawful treatment of certain categories of people.
The Equality Act is enforceable by law and it is applicable in all of the U.K.
Who is Protected in the Equality Act
Within The Equality Act, there are a set of protected characteristics. These characteristics describe groups of people who are protected against discrimination. People within these groups cannot be discriminated against or treated differently because of the particular characteristic they belong to. If someone treats you differently because of any one of these characteristics, it is illegal discrimination. Discrimination at work is particularly protected by The Equality Act.
The protected characteristics are:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sex, and
- Sexual orientation
Here, we are going to focus on the protected characteristic of disability, but you can read more information about any of the categories in the Act itself, and you can check out our sister site, Aspiring to Include, for more information and guidance on the other protected characteristics and how they are protected in employment.
The Equality Act states that a person has a disability if they:
- Have a physical or mental impairment, and
- The impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry about everyday tasks.
If this is the case in your life, you are protected in employment under this particular protected characteristic. You cannot be discriminated against on the basis of your disability.
The Equality Act also protects people from discrimination by association. This means that you cannot be discriminated against because your spouse, child, or another family member is disabled. Decisions about your employment cannot be made due to this fact.
How Disabled People Are Protected Under the Equality Act
Protected characteristics are protected from discrimination, harassment, and victimisation under the Equality Act. Their definitions are as follows:
- Direct Discrimination: If a person (A) discriminates against another (B) because of a protected characteristic, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat others.
- Indirect Discrimination: A person (A) discriminates against another (B) if A applies to B a provision, criterion, or practise which is discriminatory in relation to a relevant protected characteristic of B’s.
- Harassment: A person (A) harasses another (B) if A engages in unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, and the conduct has the purpose or effect of violating B’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment for B. It is also harassment if A engages in unwanted conduct of a sexual nature. And if this conduct has an effect similar to that outlined in the first example.
- Victimisation: A person (A) victimises another person (B) if A subjects B to a detriment because B “does a protected act” or A believes they have done so. Protected acts are to do with The Equality Act itself and how it can be called into action. Someone “does a protected act” if they bring proceedings under The Equality Act, give evidence or information in relation to proceedings under the Act, make an allegation that another person has contravened (violated, infringed upon) this act, or really if they do anything to do with the Act.
Basically, you are protected from being treated poorly and unfairly on the grounds of your disability. You are entitled to safe, appropriate, and equal working conditions that allow you to comfortably take part in employment. Anything otherwise needs to be reported, and you can find out the guidelines on how to do this through this Government webpage.
There are some other aspects within the Equality Act that protect disabled people, including regulations around taxis and public transport. You can check those out, here. For the rest of this blog, we want to keep talking about employment and how the Act protects disabled people at work. A big part of that is the concept of reasonable adjustments.
Employers are required under the Act to make reasonable adjustments that will allow disabled people to carry out their work safely, appropriately, and with equality. They are required to do so under the Act if,
- a provision, criterion or practise of A’s puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a relevant matter in comparison with persons who are not disabled,
- a physical feature puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a relevant matter in comparison with persons who are not disabled, or,
- a disabled person would, but for the provision of an auxiliary aid, be put at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a relevant matter in comparison with persons who are not disabled.
In these instances, employers need to make reasonable adjustments so that the disabled employee isn’t excluded or discriminated against. Common reasonable adjustments can include things like:
- wheelchair access
- BSL interpreters
- remote working
- extra equipment
- support workers
- service animals
…and so on.
If your employer cannot reasonably make an adjustment you need, the Access to Work scheme can help provide financial support.
Getting the Right Support
There are so many reasonable adjustments that can be made for disabled people. It is important to remember that you are well within your rights to ask for them and to expect them to be delivered. Knowing your rights is one of the absolute best ways to ensure that you get the care and support you need. And The Equality Act is the best place to start with knowing your rights as a disabled person in work.
If you would like to know more about support in work as a disabled person, check out our site. There you can find even more specialized guides and tailored blogs.
You can also use our disability-friendly job board to find a job that will support you in the way you need. We work with employers who want to be Disability-Friendly and who want to give disabled people fair and equal opportunities. If that is what you are looking for, you can look on the job board for a job that suits you and your specific skills.