Prior to the Equality Act 2010 there were myriad pieces of anti-discrimination legislation spread across a variety of statutes and statutory instruments. As we have seen in the previous post UK anti-discrimination law has developed piecemeal and inconsistently since the 1960’s, resulting in the following sources of law:

  • Equal Pay Act 1970
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1975
  • Race Relations Act 1976
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1986
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1995
  • Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003
  • Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
  • Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
  • Equality Act 2006
  • Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007
  • Sex Discrimination (Amendment of Legislation) Regulations 2008

The White Paper advanced by the Government in June 2008 for the Equality Bill criticised (rightly, in this author’s view) the current law as “cluttered” and proposed consolidating the nine major pieces of discrimination legislation and simplifying the ability to interpret the law. This resulted, in April 2010, in the passing of the Equality Act 2010, which came into force in October 2010. Most of the previous primary statute was subsumed within the Equality Act 2010 and it is therefore arguably the single most important source of UK anti-discrimination law.

The Equality Act 2010 s.39 prohibits discrimination against employees and applications relating to a variety of actions. The actions that the employer is prohibiting from discriminating against employees and applicants are:

  • Deciding whom to offer employment (s.39(1)(a)) (s.39(3)(a) covers victimisation)
  • Determining the terms of employment (s.39(1)(b)), referring specifically to opportunities for promotion, transfer or training or receiving any other kind of benefit (s.39(1)(a)) (s.39(3)(b) covers victimisation and s.39(4)(b) covers harassment)
  • Dismissal

Sections 13 to 27 deal with the prohibited conduct while sections 5 to 12 deal with the prohibited grounds. Prohibited conduct includes:

  • Direct discrimination (s.13)
  • Indirect discrimination (s.19)
  • Combined (dual characteristic) discrimination (s.14)
  • Gender reassignment (relating to absence from work) discrimination (s.16)
  • Pregnancy and maternity discrimination (sections 17 and 18)
  • Discrimination arising from disability (s.15)
  • Victimisation (s.27)
  • Harassment (s.26)
  • Failure to comply with a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled persons (s.20)

The prohibited grounds of discrimination include discrimination because of an employee’s (although it relates to other areas too):

  • Age (s.5)
  • Disability (s.6)
  • Gender reassignment (s.7)
  • Marriage and civil partnership (s.8)
  • Race (s.9)
  • Religion or belief (s.10)
  • Sex (s.11)
  • Sexual orientation (s.12)

Equality of terms (previously mainly covered by the Equal Pay Act 1970) is now covered under Chapter 3 of Part 5 with relation to sex, maternity or pregnancy. However, discrimination on other grounds relating to equal pay is still covered under s.39 rather than s.64. Non-discrimination relating to pensions is covered under Chapter 2 of Part 5.


The Direct 2 Lawyers Employment Team post daily on interesting employment law cases, Employment Tribunal judgments and Employment Appeal Tribunal judgments. All of the Employment Team posts are written by qualified specialist employment lawyers

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