The Equality Act (2010)

Background to the Act

The Equality Act was introduced in 2010, bringing together and extending existing equality legislation such as the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

The drivers for the Equality Act were to harmonise discrimination law, and to strengthen the law to support progress on equality.

Since 1970 with the Equal Pay Act, which came into effect in 1975, anti-discrimination and equality law in Great Britain has been introduced to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, disability, age, sexual orientation and religion and belief. More recent laws have been enacted as a result of European Union directives (age, sexual orientation and religion and belief) and pre-existing anti-discrimination laws on sex and race have needed to be amended and updated to make them compliant with later directives on these areas.

The resulting mix of anti-discrimination and equality laws was therefore one of the drivers behind the Equality Act 2010 (the Act), which aims to streamline and simplify existing protection into one place. A second driver behind the Act was the perceived lack of progress in Great Britain on equality generally, and in particular on achieving equality in pay between men and women.

The Act covers England and Wales, and Scotland with the exception of a couple of sections relating to improvements to let dwelling houses and family property. Despite some concern that the Coalition Government would not implement the Act, it was announced in July 2010 that they would begin implementing the Act according to the original timetable.

Phases of the Act

The Act came into force in the following 3 phases:

1. October 2010: main provisions relate to employment, equal pay and services, public functions and associations, education (further and higher education), and replaced relevant sections of current anti-discrimination legislation covering these areas.

2. April 2011: the public sector equality duty came into force, replacing the previous public sector duties in the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 and the Equality Act 2006. Guidance was published in December 2010 and a draft code of practice laid before Parliament in January 2011. Positive action relating to recruitment or promotion also came into force on 6th April 2011.

3. April 2012: the ban on age discrimination in provision of goods, facilities, services and public functions came into effect. Guidance was published in December 2011 with a draft code of practice laid before Parliament in January 2012.

Key Issues

Protected Characteristics

What are the Protected Characteristics?

The Equality Act covers the same groups that were protected by existing equality legislation. These are now called ‘protected characteristics’. The Act extends some protection to characteristics that were not previously covered, and strengthens particular aspects of equality law.

Changes to Equality Act legislation

Changes to legislation

While the Act consolidates existing anti-discrimination legislation into one Act, the different strands of law remain as now. These are known as ‘protected characteristics’ and retain many of their different characteristics.

Types of Discrimination

Types of discrimination

Detail of the different types of discrimination covered by the Equality Act.


Public Sector Equality Duty

Key points from the Public Sector Equality Duty.

Code of Practice

EO Policy & Code of Practice

Equal Opportunities Policy and Code of Practice for Staff

Council Statement EO

University Council Statement

University Council Statement on Equality of Opportunity and Diversity.

External Guidance Equality Act

External guidance

Links to external guidance documents

Hods Equality Act

Guidance for HoDs

An outline of the key changes of the Equality Act and implications for HoDs.