Updated HR policy checklist for the Equality Act 2010

26 September 2010
Updated HR policy checklist for the Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 comes into force on 1 October 2010. Here are some key areas for you to check over when updating your HR policies. If you'd make your own additions, do share them by posting a comment below!

Protected groups
Issue: You will probably have statements in your policies outlining your commitment to not discriminating on the grounds of various characteristics. If you list these protected groups, you'll want to make sure you have the following covered:

  • Age (for staff)
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership (for staff)
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

Possible documents to check: equality & diversity policy, job descriptions, recruitment policy and forms, bullying & harassment policy, maternity policy, compassionate leave policy, complaints policy.
Further information: If you're looking for specific definitions of any of the above, see the EHRC glossary of terms. For explanations, see Acas guide p.5-7.

Discrimination types

Issue:  You may need to expand your current lists of disciplinary offences or the types of discrimination that you as an employer or service-provider take action against. These include:

  • Direct discrimination
  • Indirect discrimination (unless it can be objectively justified)
  • Discrimination by association
  • Discrimination by perception
  • Discrimination arising from a disability (unless it can be objectively justified)
  • Dual discrimination (optional - not introduced on 1 October 2010)
  • Victimisation
  • Harassment
  • Harassment by a third party (for staff)
  • Not making reasonable adjustments for individuals with disabilities
  • Instructing, causing or inducing discrimination is also prohibited.

Be mindful also of whether any restrictions on your charity's members or beneficiaries may be discriminatory.
Possible documents to check:
equality & diversity policy, bullying & harassment policy, grievance policy, disciplinary policy, complaints policy, code of conduct, governing documents.

Further information: For definitions see Acas guide p.3-4; EHRC glossary of terms; for how these affect service providers see GEO guide for voluntary sector service providers p.6-11. For how restrictions on members or beneficiaries of a charity may be affected, see the Charity Commission.

Health checks and absence questioning

One of the most significant changes with the new Equality Act. You are no longer permitted to ask about an individual's absence record or health before they are offered a job - subject to a few exceptions (see guidance below).  Check (or state) that you don't collect information or enquire into an individual's absence record, health or disability in the application or interview stage prior to a candidate being offered a post except in limited circumstances. (You may complete checks post-offer with a view to making reasonable adjustments or ensuring the individual is capable of doing the job. Care should still be taken so seek advice if you're unsure).
Possible documents to check: recruitment policy and forms
Further information: Acas guide, p.8-9; EHRC guidance p.9-12 (.doc)

Pay secrecy
Check whether you use "pay secrecy" clauses in your contracts. Be mindful that you can't enforce these clauses where a worker is seeking to find out whether there is a link between their pay and them having a protected characteristic.
Possible documents to check: employment contracts, pay policy
Further information: Acas guide, p.10; EHRC guidance p.23 (.doc)

Duty to make reasonable adjustments
Ensure that offering extra equipment is one of the reasonable adjustments you offer to staff, job applicants or service users with a disability, in addition to making adjustments to working practices (eg the use of parking) or physical features (eg having a ramp or lift as well as stairs).
Possible documents to check: equality & diversity policy, recruitment policy and forms, capability policy, appraisal and supervision policy, disciplinary & grievance policy, though you'll probably need to review more widely.
Further information: EHRC guidance p.33-35 (.doc)

Citing legislation
Issue: Ensure that where you have mentioned the following laws and regulations in your HR policies, you now refer to the Equality Act 2010:

  • Equal Pay Act 1970
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1975
  • Race Relations Act 1976
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1986
  • Employment Act 1989, sections 1 to 7 and section 9
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1995
  • Parts of the Equality Act 2006 including Parts 2 and 4
  • Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003
  • Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 and 2007
  • Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 (except Schedules 6 and 8)

Possible documents to check: Diversity policy, recruitment policy and forms, staff handbook, bullying and harassment policy - though also check more widely.
Further information: For the full list of legislation repealed by the Equality Act 2010, see http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/schedule/27

Further information
The Equality and Human Rights Commission and Acas remain the most authoritative sources of guidance for an employer so it's a good idea to familiarise yourself with these. However some finer details of the new legislation will emerge as the courts decide on new cases. If you would like advice, you can call the Equality and Human Rights Commission Helpline to talk to an advisor. For a more general introduction to the Equality Act 2010, try also our earlier blog post.

Please note that HRBird by its very nature offers general information. If you're looking for advice specific to your situation, speak to an HR professional or solicitor. 
Got a question on staff or volunteers? To submit an anonymous query for the HRBird blog, contact us.

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