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Archive for July, 2010

All equal now?

The Equality Bill became an Act on 8 April 2010.  The core provisions will come into force in October 2010.  New non-statutory Codes of Practice are awaited from the Commission for Equality and Human Rights.

The Act contains a mixed and extensive list of “protected characteristics” including age, disability, gender, marriage, pregnancy, race, religion and sex.  The present legislation relating to discrimination exhibited against one or more persons within these groups is diverse, often muddled and very confusing.  The aim of the Equality Act is to create a fairer Britain within a clear and understandable framework.  It sweeps away previous legislation dating back, in some instances, to the 1960s.

The Act introduces four forms of prohibited conduct against any person with one or more of the protected characteristics (direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation) and an additional form of conduct relating to disabled persons only.  Once in force, if a person (A) treats B in a particular way and because of B’s disability, the treatment is to the detriment of B that will amount to discrimination even if A would have treated any other person in the same way.  So, there is no comparator.  This will circumvent the House of Lords’ decision in London Borough of Lewisham v Malcolm.  The Law Lords held the Council had not discriminated against Mr Malcolm, suffering from schizophrenia and unable to understand the consequences of his actions, as it treated him, a defaulting tenant, in the same way as it would treat any defaulting tenant by seeking possession of a flat leased to him.

Various bodies and persons will have varying duties under the Act including the making of reasonable adjustments when a (a) provision criterion or practice, (b) physical feature or (c) lack of auxiliary aid would put a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with persons who are not disabled.

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