The Equality Act came into force in October 2010. At DisabledGo we often get asked for more information about the Act and the protection it provides disabled people from discrimination. Here are some of the most common questions and our answers.
Has the Equality Act replaced the Disability Discrimination Act?Yes.
The new Act has generally incorporated and strengthened previous legislation, which means in the majority of cases your rights as a disabled person have remained the same or have increased from those outlined in the Disability Discrimination Act.
Why is it the Equality Act not a new Disability Discrimination Act?
The Equality Act brings together a range of previous laws about different areas e.g. Age, Sex, Race, Disability. The idea is to make the law around equality issues consistent, clear and easy to follow. As well as covering disability the Act outlines the rights people have on the grounds of –
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion and belief
- Sexual orientation
These 9 areas are referred to as Protected Characteristics.
Who does the Equality Act apply to?
The Act applies to -
- Government departments
- Service providers
- Education providers (Schools, FHE colleges and Universities)
- Providers of public functions
- Associations and membership bodies
- Transport providers
What rights do I have as a disabled person under the Act?
The Equality Act has introduced a number of positive changes regarding the protection and rights of disabled people. Our next column will cover this in more detail. However, here is a brief introduction.
- The Act provides protection for anyone who has, or has had, a disability.
- It protects people from being discriminated against who are mistakenly perceived to be disabled and it protects a person from being treated less favourably because they are linked or associated with a disabled person.
- The Act provides protection for people who are discriminated against because of something connected with their disability and introduces protection from indirect discrimination and disability related harassment in accessing services.
- The law has changed slightly in relation to an organisation’s responsibility to make reasonable adjustments to premises and to policies, practices and procedures. Previously they had to be made by service providers only where it would otherwise be ‘impossible or unreasonably difficult’ for a disabled person to use the service. Now, adjustments must be made where disabled people experience a ‘substantial disadvantage’.
- Lastly, there is now no need for a person believing they have been victimised to show that they have been treated less favourably than someone who has not made or supported a complaint under the Act. They only need to show that they have been treated badly.
Does the new law protect me as a carer?
Yes. If you’re looking after a disabled person, the law will protect you against direct discrimination or harassment because of your caring responsibilities. This is because you’re counted as being ‘associated’ with someone who is protected by the law because of their disability. If you are a carer you would have previously been protected from discrimination and harassment if they happened at work, but the Equality Act has now extended protection to not only cover work but -
- when you shop for goods
- when you ask for services
- when you get services
- when you use facilities like public transport.
Where can I go for advice about my rights?
The Equality and Human Rights Commission provides advice to individuals and organisations around the Equality Act and cases of discrimination. The commission also has powers that enable them to enforce the law. These powers include helping individual people with their legal cases; and taking legal action against organisations that appear to have broken the law.
If you have a question or topic you would like to see featured in this column in future please contact firstname.lastname@example.org