Two years after the coming into force of the Equalities Act 2010, a recent survey by the Government Equalities Office (GEO) has found that over 90% of employers are in favour of equality in the workplace.
The Equality Act
The Equality Act came largely into force on 1st October 2010, although other provisions have since come into effect too.
In very general terms, it consolidates nine earlier pieces of equality legislation and sets out nine protected characteristics:
- gender reassignment,
- marriage and civil partnership,
- pregnancy and maternity,
- religion or belief,
- sexual orientation.
The Act details the ways in which people can be unlawfully treated – including, for example, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation – and the situations in which the Act applies. These include the workplace, education and when providing goods and services.
The Act is due to be reviewed in 2015, and so a survey was commissioned as part of the preparatory work for this. In all the GEO questioned around 1,800 organisations of all shapes and sizes across Great Britain about the impact that the Equality Act 2010 has had on their business.
Employers were asked about their organisation’s approach to equality, awareness of the law and the impact of the Act on practice and grievances in the workplace.
“The Equality Act has been in force for two years now and it is only right that we find out what employers know or don’t know, and how they genuinely feel about the Act,” Women and Equalities Minister Jo Swinson said.
The survey revealed widespread engagement with equalities and with equality legislation.
The overwhelming majority of establishments had either a written policy relating to equality or an approach to discrimination issues that was known by their employees. While a written policy was more prevalent in medium and large organisations, almost half of micro-enterprises (with between two and nine employees) also had one.
However, the survey also found that two-thirds of organisations questioned were unaware of the Equality Act, and smaller businesses said they found it difficult to get good quality information on equality issues.
Among organisations with an approach to equality issues, there was generally a number of motivating factors:
- The vast majority (91%) reported the organisation was concerned with complying with the law.
- A similar proportion said the owners (90%) and managers (85%) felt it was morally important.
- Three-quarters (76%) reported the organisation was concerned with how it was viewed by customers, suppliers and the wider community.
- Only 11% were swayed by pressure from trade unions or staff.
“It is really encouraging to see from the survey that so many employers think equality is important for their business,” said Jo Swinson.
“The Act is there to protect individuals from unfair treatment and was introduced to both strengthen and simplify the law,” she continued. “The results provide helpful evidence on whether the Act is working as it was intended.”
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Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.