You may well be sick and tired of hearing about the Equality Act by now – but it is worth making the last few checks that you are compliant before it comes in on Friday (1 October 2010). The Government has published some guidance, very late in the day, but in case you have better things to do than wade through that before Friday, here’s our summary of the main things you need to be aware of:
- Is your equal opportunities policy updated?
The Equality Act has changed a number of the definitions of discrimination, and has also introduced the concepts of associative discrimination (where an individual is directly discriminated against or harassed for association with another individual who has a ‘protected characteristic’ such as a disability) and discrimination by perception (i.e. that the person is perceived to have a particular characteristic, when in fact they do not). These new types of discrimination do not cover harassment related to marriage/civil partnership and pregnancy/maternity.
If you haven’t yet updated your policy, then why not contact us and find out how we can help you do this quickly and easily.
- Have you changed your policy on pre-employment health questions?
Many employers ask job applicants questions about their health during the recruitment process. After Friday 1 October 2010, this will be unlawful, apart from some narrow exceptions.
You are entitled to ask questions to find out whether a potential employee is able to participate in an interview or assessment and whether you will be required to make any reasonable adjustments. For example, a dyslexic candidate may need extra time to carry out an assessment.
You will be able to to ask about a candidate’s ability to do a job, but only if the question relates to their ability to carry out a function that is ‘intrinsic’ to the work concerned. It is not clear when functions will be ‘intrinsic’ and we will need to wait for case law to develop. However, it is likely to be a very limited exception. As an example, when recruiting a vet, candidates with an allergy to animals may not be able to carry out an intrinsic function of the job, and employers would be entitled to ask about this.
You will be permitted to ask questions for the purpose of monitoring equality, but it is best to do this anonymously. This prevents a potential employee claiming that the information provided has been used to discriminate against them.
- Are your staff trained?
While you will be pleased to know there is no statutory requirement for your staff to be trained on the Act before Friday (!) it is still highly recommended that you do regularly train your staff, particularly your managers, on equal opportunities, as this can prove crucial when defending a discrimination claim.
The Act provides the ideal opportunity to run a training course, as it does introduce some new concepts and even those who are familiar with the basic concepts of the law will benefit from a refresher. The team at Pure Employment Law are experienced at designing and delivering training sessions on equal opportunities to staff from shop floor to director level, and can tailor our courses to your organisation’s policies.
If you would like to discuss this further please feel free to contact Nicola Brown via email or on 01243 836843 to discuss your requirements.