The Act fulfils a manifesto
pledge made in 2005 by the previous Labour Goverrnment and brings
together all nine major pieces of equality law, including the
Disability Discrimination Act and Sex Discrimination Act, into a
single piece of legislation designed to update, simplify and
strengthen UK anti-discrimination law.
Hannett, Usdaw General Secretary said:
''Usdaw very much welcomes
the implementation of the Act as it will significantly strengthen
protection from discrimination, particularly for disabled workers
and inequality are still too often part of the world of work. It
can not only devastate the lives of those on the receiving end but
it also has a damaging impact on everyone else in the workplace.
Tackling discrimination and promoting equality is one of the
defining principles of the Trade Union movement and the Equality
Act boosts our ability to ensure everyone is treated fairly and
with dignity and respect at work.
Treating people fairly at
work can also help toward a successful recovery of the economy. Far
from being a luxury only to be considered when times are good,
strengthening rights to equal and fair treatment at work are in the
current economic climate more necessary than ever. Measures to
protect the most vulnerable groups of workers are vital for
economic growth, business success and social justice.''
- Usdaw (the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied
Workers) is the UK's fourth biggest trade union, with over 390,000
members. Usdaw is the country's fastest growing trade union;
membership has increased by 20,000 in the past year, by more than
15% in the last three years and by 100,000 in the last decade. Most
Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has
many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing,
chemicals and other trades.
- The Equality Act significantly improves rights and
protection for disabled workers. Disabled workers have all the same
rights as under the Disability Discrimination Act but the following
five key improvements have been made;
- The definition of disability has been slightly relaxed
which according to ACAS guidance will has make it easier for a
person to show they are disabled and protected from disability
discrimination under the Act.
- Apart from some exemptions, the Equality Act stops
employers from asking about a job applicant's health or disability
before offering them a job. Once a job offer has been made, the
employer can then ask health related questions.
- Under the Equality Act, disabled workers will be
protected from unfair treatment for a reason arising from or
related to their disability. For example, a worker is dismissed not
because of his or her disability, but because of sickness absence
arising from his or her disability.
- The Equality Act also introduces the concept of indirect
discrimination into disability law. It means that companies need to
be careful that their policies and procedures don't put disabled
workers in a worse position than other workers. If their policies
or procedures do indirectly discriminate against disabled workers
they will need a very good reason to justify this.
- The Equality Act also gives workers who care for someone
the right to be treated no less fairly or no worse than someone who
doesn't have caring commitments. In addition, carers will also be
protected from any harassment in the workplace arising as a result
of their caring responsibilities.