|Long title||An Act to make provision to require Ministers of the Crown and others when making strategic decisions about the exercise of their functions to have regard to the desirability of reducing socio-economic inequalities; to reform and harmonise equality law and restate the greater part of the enactments relating to discrimination and harassment related to certain personal characteristics; to enable certain employers to be required to publish information about the differences in pay between male and female employees; to prohibit victimisation in certain circumstances; to require the exercise of certain functions to be with regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and other prohibited conduct; to enable duties to be imposed in relation to the exercise of public procurement functions; to increase equality of opportunity; to amend the law relating to rights and responsibilities in family relationships; and for connected purposes.|
|Citation||2010 c 15|
|Territorial extent||England and Wales; Scotland; section 82, 105 (3) and (4) and 199 also apply to Northern Ireland|
|Royal assent||8 April 2010|
|Commencement||1 October 2010|
Status: Current legislation
|Text of statute as originally enacted|
|Revised text of statute as amended|
The primary purpose of the Act is to codify the complicated and numerous array of Acts and Regulations, which formed the basis of anti-discrimination law in Great Britain. This was, primarily, the Equal Pay Act 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and three major statutory instruments protecting discrimination in employment on grounds of religion or belief, sexual orientation and age. It requires equal treatment in access to employment as well as private and public services, regardless of the protected characteristics of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. In the case of gender, there are special protections for pregnant women. The Act does not guarantee transsexuals' access to gender-specific services where restrictions are "a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim". In the case of disability, employers and service providers are under a duty to make reasonable adjustments to their workplaces to overcome barriers experienced by disabled people. In this regard, the Equality Act 2010 did not change the law. Under s.217, with limited exceptions the Act does not apply to Northern Ireland.
The Labour Party included a commitment to an Equality Bill in its 2005 election manifesto. The Discrimination Law Review was established in 2005 to develop the legislation and was led by the Government Equalities Office. The review considered the findings of the Equalities Review Panel, chaired by Trevor Phillips, which reported in February 2007. The Act is intended to simplify the law by bringing together existing anti-discrimination legislation. The Equality Act 2010 has replaced the Equal Pay Act 1970, 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 and the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006.
Polly Toynbee wrote that the bill, which was drafted under the guidance of Harriet Harman, was "Labour's biggest idea for 11 years. A public-sector duty to close the gap between rich and poor will tackle the class divide in a way that no other policy has... This new duty to narrow the gap would permeate every aspect of government policy. Its possible ramifications are mind-bogglingly immense." One cabinet member described it with relish as "socialism in one clause".
The Act extends until 2030 the exemption from sex discrimination law which allows political parties to select all women or all men candidate short-lists. The previous exemption until 2015 was created by the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002.
The Parliamentary process was completed following a debate, shortly after 11pm on 6 April 2010, when amendments by the House of Lords were accepted in full.
In April 2008, Solicitor General Vera Baird announced that as part of the Single Equality Bill, legislation would be introduced to repeal parts of the Act of Settlement 1701 that prevent Roman Catholics or those who marry Roman Catholics from ascending to the throne, and to change the inheritance of the monarchy from cognatic primogeniture to absolute primogeniture, so that the first-born heir would inherit the throne regardless of gender or religion.
However, later in 2008 the Attorney General Baroness Scotland of Asthal decided not to sponsor a change in the law of succession, saying, "To bring about changes to the law on succession would be a complex undertaking involving amendment or repeal of a number of items of related legislation, as well as requiring the consent of legislatures of member nations of the Commonwealth". The published draft bill did not contain any provisions to change the succession laws. Cognatic primogeniture for the British monarchy was instead abolished separately three years after the Equality Act came into force, with the enactment of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013.
Although the act was never going to change the law with regard to churches from its existing position, nor change the binding European Union law which covers many more Roman Catholics than those living in the United Kingdom, and although the position had been spelled out in the High Court in R (Amicus) v Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, a small number of Roman Catholic bishops in England and Wales made claims that they might in future be prosecuted under the Equality Act 2010 for refusing to allow women, married men, transsexual people, and gay people into the priesthood. This claim was rejected by the government. A spokesperson said an exemption in the law "covers ministers of religion such as Catholic priests" and a document released by the Government Equalities Office states that "the Equality Bill will not change the existing legal position regarding churches and employment". The legislation was also criticised by Anglican clergy.
Certain employment is exempted from the act, including:
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