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Usdaw welcomes arrival of the Equality Act

Date: 01 October 2010 The shopworkers Union Usdaw has welcomed the arrival of the Equality Act, the first provisions of which finally come into force today Friday 1 October.

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.

John 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 carers.

Regrettably, discrimination 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.''

Notes for Editors:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

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The official website of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers