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Employment activities that are protected by the Equality Act 2010

Prohibited conduct

Part 5 of the Equality Act 2010 sets out the employment activities in which you should not suffer any discrimination. Part 8  lists the different situations where your employer might be liable if the Act is breached, as well as the defences available to your employer for alleged breaches.

Under the Equality Act 2010 you should not be subjected to unlawful discrimination in any of the following employment activities;

  • Job Applicants and Recruitment.
  • Pre-employment health questionnaires for job applicants.
  • Working hours, flexible working and time off.
  • Pay and benefits.
  • Training, development, promotion and transfer.
  • How you are managed.
  • Dismissal, redundancy and retirement.
  • After you have left the job.

Employers Obligations

The main duties are;

  • An employer must not discriminate against, victimise or harass job applicants and employees – sections 39 & 40. This also applies to a recruiter, even if that recruiter is not yet an employer – section 83 (4).
  • Employers must not discriminate against or victimise job applicants in the arrangements they make for deciding who should be offered employment, in the terms on which they offer employment, or by not offering employment to the applicant. Arrangements are the policies, criteria and practices used in recruiting and deciding who to appoint, including job adverts, the application process and the job interview stage. The terms on which an employer might offer employment include such things as pay, bonuses and other benefits – section 39(1) & (3).
  • Employers’ should not ask a job applicant about disabilities or health before making a job offer – section 60.
  • Employers must not discriminate against or victimise an employee as to the terms of employment, in the way they make access to opportunities for promotion, transfer or training or for receiving any other benefit, facility or service, by dismissing the employee, or by subjecting them to any other detriment. Terms of employment include such things as pay, working hours, bonuses, occupational pensions, sickness or maternity and paternity leave and pay. A detriment is anything which might cause an employee to change their position for the worse or put them at a disadvantage  – section 39(2) & (4).
  • Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments in the recruitment and selection process and during employment- section 39(5).
  • Employers have a duty not to harass job applicants or their employees. This duty extends to harassment by third parties of job applicants and employees in the course of employment – section 40.
  • Employers may be liable for harassment of job applicants and employees by third parties. A third party is anyone who is not the employer or another employee. This applies to those over whom the employer does not have direct control, such as customers or clients – section 40(2)&(4).
  • Employers will be liable for unlawful acts committed by their employees in the course of employment, whether or not they know about the acts of their employees – section 109(1) & (3).
  • Principals are liable for unlawful acts committed by their agents while acting under the principal’s authority. It does not matter whether the principal knows about or approves of the acts of their agents.- section 109(2) & (3).
  • Employers and principals will be also liable for aiding, causing, instructing or inducing their employees or agents to commit an unlawful act.
  • It is unlawful for employers to discriminate against or harass employees after the employment has ended – section 108.

[see How to prepare a Scott Schedule for a direct discrimination claim, How to prepare a Scott Schedule for a victimisation claim, How to prepare a Scott Schedule for a harassment claim, How to prepare a Scott Schedule for a sexual harassment claim, How to ask questions about discrimination at work, How to write a grievance about discrimination]


Updated: 15/03/2020

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