Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003

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The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 are secondary legislation in the United Kingdom, which prohibited employers unreasonably discriminating against employees on grounds of sexual orientation, perceived sexual orientation, religion or belief and age. They are now superseded by the Equality Act 2010.


The regulations are brought into force under the terms of the European Communities Act 1972 as they are intended to implement within the United Kingdom the provisions of the EU Equal Treatment Directive covering discrimination on the grounds mentioned in the Amsterdam Treaty (disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation and age - with race and sex discrimination dealt with in other Directives - See EU Anti-Discrimination Directive).

The regulations, as implemented in Great Britain and Northern Ireland cover the following areas:

They include employment, vocational training, professional organisations and trade unions. Cases are heard by an employment tribunal or at the County Court or a sheriff court.

Similar regulations were earlier introduced to allow for employment protection for people who had undergone or were proposing to undergo gender reassignment which amended the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 - and are known as the Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999.

Sexual orientation harassment[edit]

As well as the regulations there has been a succession of case law defining the phrase 'on grounds of sexual orientation' in Regulation 5. One of the most recent cases has been decided by the Court of Appeal and was English v Thomas Sanderson Blinds Ltd 2008.

Previously protection had been extended so to as incorporate those perceived to be homosexual or bisexual, as well as through an association with homosexual or bisexual persons. However, the facts in English were that Mr. English was not gay, was not perceived to be gay by his tormentors, but was still treated as though he was. The tormentors in this case in fact knew that Mr. English was straight with children. The court found this was still sufficient connection to satisfy being 'on ground of sexual orientation' for Mr. English to be afforded protection under Regulation 5 of the Act.

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