The UK legislation for equality and diversity comes predominantly in the form of the Equality Act 2010. It replaced the previous legislation that was in place, creating one general act to follow instead of lots of smaller ones. The act pushes for a consistency across the board, so that employees and employers all comply with the laws to create fairer workplaces all over the country.
As well as this, the Commission of Equality and Human Rights (EHRC) and Human Rights Act of 1998 exist to reduce inequality and discrimination, both problems that crop up in the workplace.
Equality Act 2010
The act brings together over 116 separate pieces of legislation in an attempt to simplify and strengthen the legislation. The act provides a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equal opportunities for all, protecting individuals from unfair treatment.
It promotes equality in the areas of 9 protected characteristics, also known as general duties to promote equality. The nine main pieces of legislation that have merged cover topics such as gender, race, disability and sexual orientation:
- The Equal Pay Act 1970
- The Sex Discrimination Act 1975
- The Race Relations Act 1976
- The Disability Discrimination Act 1995
- The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003
- The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
- The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
- The Equality Act 2006, Part 2
- The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
The EHRC joined up the work of the previous equality organisations, the Commission of Racial Equality, the Disability Rights Commission, and the Equal Opportunities Commission.
It challenges prejudice and promotes the importance of human rights, enforcing the equality laws around age, disability, gender, race, religion and sexual orientation and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act.
The Commission seeks to maintain and strengthen the UK's history of upholding people's rights, valuing diversity and challenging intolerance, as well as tackling the areas where there is still discrimination and inequality, such as the workplace.
Human Rights Act 1998
The act sets out the rights and freedoms that everyone in the UK is entitled to. It links to the Eur#opean Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and bring it into domestic UK law. The act is set out as 'Articles', with each one dealing with a different right; they are often known as the convention rights:
- Article 2: Right to life
- Article 3: Freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment
- Article 4: Freedom from slavery and forced labour
- Article 5: Right to liberty and security
- Article 6: Right to a fair trial
- Article 7: No punishment without law
- Article 8: Respect for your private and family life, home and correspondence
- Article 9: Freedom of thought, belief and religion
- Article 10: Freedom of expression
- Article 11: Freedom of assembly and association
- Article 12: Right to marry and start a family
- Article 14: Protection from discrimination in respect of these rights and freedoms
- Protocol 1, Article 1: Right to peaceful enjoyment of your property
- Protocol 1, Article 2: Right to education
- Protocol 1, Article 3: Right to participate in free elections
- Protocol 13, Article 1: Abolition of the death penalty
The changes it brings means that you can take your case to a court in the UK rather than heading to the European court of human rights in France. It also means that public bodies such as the police and schools have standards they need to meet in order to respect your human rights.
The Importance of Equality and Diversity Legislation in the Workplace
The importance of this legislation cannot be stressed enough. By having standards that organisations need to meet, there is a consistency throughout the whole process so that customers are treated fairly wherever they go.
By companies following these rules and regulations, they are showing that they comply with equality and diversity, creating a better system all round.
Promoting equality and diversity in the workplace means that companies can gain a more flexible and adaptive corporate culture by accessing a broader variety of worldviews and problem-solving styles. Another positive is that diverse workforces are perceived as more appealing to potential employees and customers.
It's not always easy to tell whether a company has a diversity program, but companies that want to promote diversity take the extra step of scrutinizing their own policies and strategies to determine whether they are really doing everything they can to create a diverse workforce.