UK – Key amendments to the Equality Act 2010

What’s new?

The Government has announced draft legislation containing amendments to the Equality Act 2010 (the “Act“), which will be effective from 1 January 2024. The Equality Act (Amendment) Regulations 2023 will retain certain interpretations of laws around equality derived from EU case law, which would otherwise no longer have an effect due to Brexit.

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What are the some of the key amendments?

  1. Widened definition of disability – the current definition of disability (i.e. “a longstanding physical or mental impairment that has an adverse effect on the person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”) will now also include the “person’s ability to participate fully and effectively in working life on an equal basis with other workers”. Meaning, in practice, if a person can demonstrate that their impairment impacts their ability to fully and effectively participate in working life in the same way as their colleagues, it will be easier for them to demonstrate that they have a disability.
  2. Direct sex discrimination for breastfeeding – an exclusion under the Act which previously excluded women from bringing a direct sex discrimination claim against their employer where they have been treated less favourably at work due to breastfeeding will be repealed.
  3. Special treatment in connection with maternity – the provision which currently gives special treatment to women in connection with pregnancy or childbirth will be widened to expressly include “maternity”. In addition, protection in pregnancy and maternity discrimination claims will be extended to cover unfavourable treatment after the protected period (i.e. the duration of the pregnancy and statutory maternity leave) where the treatment was because of their pregnancy (or a related illness) during the protected period.
  4. Indirect discrimination by association – the Act will be amended to make clear that a person can bring an indirect discrimination claim where they do not share the relevant protected characteristic but can show that the relevant discriminatory criterion / practice / provision puts them at substantively the same disadvantage as those who do have that protected characteristic.

So, what should employers do now?

Employers should familiarise themselves with the changes to the Act and ensure their internal processes and policies are up to date and compliant. If you need any support with this, or would like any further information, please get in touch with a member of the MDR ONE team.

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