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Equality Act 2010

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Equality Act 2010
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act to make provision to require Ministers of the Crown and others when making strategic decisions about the exercise of their functions to have regard to the desirability of reducing socio-economic inequalities; to reform and harmonise equality law and restate the greater part of the enactments relating to discrimination and harassment related to certain personal characteristics; to enable certain employers to be required to publish information about the differences in pay between male and female employees; to prohibit victimisation in certain circumstances; to require the exercise of certain functions to be with regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and other prohibited conduct; to enable duties to be imposed in relation to the exercise of public procurement functions; to increase equality of opportunity; to amend the law relating to rights and responsibilities in family relationships; and for connected purposes.
Citation2010 c. 15
Introduced byHarriet Harman
Territorial extent England and Wales; Scotland; section 82, 105 (3) and (4) and 199 also apply to Northern Ireland
Royal assent8 April 2010
Commencement1 October 2010
Other legislation
Status: Current legislation
Text of statute as originally enacted
Revised text of statute as amended

The Equality Act 2010[1] (c. 15), often erroneously called the Equalities Act 2010, is an act of Parliament of the United Kingdom passed during the Brown ministry with the primary purpose of consolidating, updating and supplementing the numerous prior Acts and Regulations, that formed the basis of anti-discrimination law in mostly England, Scotland and Wales; some sections also apply to Northern Ireland. These consisted, primarily, of the Equal Pay Act 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and three major statutory instruments protecting discrimination in employment on grounds of religion or belief, sexual orientation and age.[2]

The act has broadly the same goals as the four major EU Equal Treatment Directives, whose provisions it mirrors and implements.[3] However, the Act also offers protection beyond the EU directives, protecting against discrimination based on a person's nationality and citizenship[4][5] and also extending individuals' rights in areas of life beyond the workplace in religion or belief, disability, age, sex, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.[6][7]

The act protects people against discrimination, harassment or victimisation in employment, and as users of private and public services based on nine protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. The Act includes provisions for single-sex services where the restrictions are "a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim".[8] In the case of disability, employers and service providers are under a duty to make reasonable adjustments to their workplaces to overcome barriers experienced by disabled people. In this regard, the Equality Act 2010 did not change the law. Under s.217, with limited exceptions the Act does not apply to Northern Ireland.[9]



The Labour Party included a commitment to an Equality Bill in its 2005 election manifesto. The Discrimination Law Review was established in 2005 to develop the legislation and was led by the Government Equalities Office. The review considered the findings of the Equalities Review Panel, chaired by Trevor Phillips, which reported in February 2007.[10] The Act is intended to simplify the law by bringing together existing anti-discrimination legislation. The Equality Act 2010 has replaced the Equal Pay Act 1970, Sex Discrimination Act 1975, Race Relations Act 1976, Disability Discrimination Act 1995, Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003, Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003[11] and the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006.

Polly Toynbee wrote that the bill, which was drafted under the guidance of Harriet Harman, was "Labour's biggest idea for 11 years. A public-sector duty to close the gap between rich and poor will tackle the class divide in a way that no other policy has... This new duty to narrow the gap would permeate every aspect of government policy. Its possible ramifications are mind-bogglingly immense." One cabinet member described it as "socialism in one clause".[12] This part of the legislation was never brought into force, except for Scottish devolved authorities.[13] [14] Sections 104–105 of the Act extend until 2030 the exemption from sex discrimination law, which allows political parties to create all-women shortlists.[15] The exemption was previously permitted by the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002.

The parliamentary process was completed, following a debate, shortly after 11 pm on 6 April 2010, when amendments by the House of Lords were accepted in full.[16]



Reform of the monarchy


In April 2008, Solicitor General Vera Baird announced that as part of the Single Equality Bill, legislation would be introduced to repeal parts of the Act of Settlement 1701 that prevent Roman Catholics or those who marry Roman Catholics from ascending to the throne, and to change the inheritance of the monarchy from cognatic primogeniture to absolute primogeniture, so that the first-born heir would inherit the throne regardless of gender or religion.[17]

However, later in 2008, the Attorney General Baroness Scotland of Asthal decided not to sponsor a change in the law of succession, saying, "To bring about changes to the law on succession would be a complex undertaking involving amendment or repeal of a number of items of related legislation, as well as requiring the consent of legislatures of member nations of the Commonwealth".[18] The published draft bill did not contain any provisions to change the succession laws. Male-preference primogeniture for the British monarchy was instead abolished separately three years after the Equality Act came into force, with the enactment of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013.

Opposition by Roman Catholic bishops


Although the act was never going to change the law with regard to churches from its existing position, nor change the binding European Union law which covers many more Roman Catholics than those living in the United Kingdom, and although the position had been spelled out in the High Court in R (Amicus) v Secretary of State for Trade and Industry,[19] a small number of Roman Catholic bishops in England and Wales made claims that they might in future be prosecuted under the Equality Act 2010 for refusing to allow women, married men, transgender people, and gay people into the priesthood.[20][21] This claim was rejected by the government. A spokesman said an exemption in the law "covers ministers of religion such as Catholic priests"[20] and a document released by the Government Equalities Office states that "the Equality Bill will not change the existing legal position regarding churches and employment".[22] The legislation was also criticised by Anglican clergy.[23]

Exempt occupations


Certain employment is exempted from the Act, including:

  • Priests, monks, nuns, rabbis, and ministers of religion.
  • Actors and models in the film, television and fashion industries (a British Chinese actress for a specific role, for instance).
  • Special employment training programmes aimed at ethnic minorities, ex-offenders, young adults, the long-term unemployed, or people with physical or learning disabilities.
  • Employment where there are cultural sensitivities (such as a documentary where male victims of domestic violence need to be interviewed by a male researcher, or a gay men's domestic violence helpline).
  • Where safety or operational efficiency could be jeopardised.
  • Political parties who use 'protected characteristics' (age, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation)[24] as candidate selection criteria; however, these "Selection arrangements do not include short-listing only such persons as have a particular protected characteristic",[25] other than sex,[26] which may still be used to prejudice selection in some circumstances (e.g. all-women/all-men shortlists).
  • Local support staff who work in embassies and high commissions, by virtue of diplomatic immunity.
  • Where national security could be jeopardised.


  • Part 1 Socio-economic inequalities
    • The UK government has indicated its intention not to bring Part 1 into force with respect to UK public authorities.[27]
    • However, the Scottish government has brought this section into force with respect to devolved Scottish authorities. It came into force for these authorities on 1 April 2018,[28][29] with the legal requirements placed on these authorities by this part of the Act being referred to by the Scottish government as the Fairer Scotland Duty.[30]
    • The Welsh government also has the power to bring this section into force with respect to devolved Welsh authorities, but has not yet done so.
  • Part 2 Equality: key concepts
    • Chapter 1 Protected characteristics[31]
    • Chapter 2 Prohibited conduct[32]
  • Part 3 Services and public functions
  • Part 4 Premises
  • Part 5 Work
    • Chapter 1 Employment, etc.[33]
    • Chapter 2 Occupational pension schemes[34]
    • Chapter 3 Equality of terms[35]
    • Chapter 4 Supplementary[36]
  • Part 6 Education
    • Chapter 1 Schools
    • Chapter 2 Further and higher education
    • Chapter 3 General qualifications bodies
    • Chapter 4 Miscellaneous
  • Part 7 Associations
  • Part 8 Prohibited conduct: ancillary
  • Part 9 Enforcement
    • Chapter 1 Introductory
    • Chapter 2 Civil courts
    • Chapter 3 Employment tribunals
    • Chapter 4 Equality of terms
    • Chapter 5 Miscellaneous
  • Part 10 Contracts, etc.
  • Part 11 Advancement of equality
  • Part 12 Disabled persons: transport
    • Chapter 1 Taxis etc.
    • Chapter 2 Public service vehicles
    • Chapter 3 Rail vehicles
    • Chapter 4 Supplementary
  • Part 13 Disability: miscellaneous[37]
  • Part 14 General exceptions[38]
  • Part 15 General and miscellaneous

Public sector equality duty


The duty set out in section 149 requires those public authorities which are subject to it to have due regard to three aims:

  • to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct prohibited under the Act,
  • to advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not, and
  • to foster good relations between those who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.[1]: Section 149 

The Cabinet Office's Information Note 1/13, "Public Procurement and the Public Sector Equality Duty", noted that public authorities needed to have due regard to this duty when planning and undertaking procurement activities, stating in particular that when contracting out public functions, it would be usual to include contract conditions which specified how equality obligations and objectives were to be complied with.[39]

Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations


The Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011 (SI 2011–2260), made on 9 September 2011,[40] required public authorities to publish information to demonstrate their compliance with the public sector equality duty and to identify one or more objectives which they thought they should work to achieve.[41]


In 2020, certain groups attempted to legally challenge the EHRC's Code of Practice on "Services, Public Functions and Associations", which attempts to provide practical guidance on implementing the Equality Act, concerning the advice that service providers should in general treat trans people as their acquired gender. The challenge failed to get a hearing before the High Court of Justice, because the justice did not consider the case to be arguable.[42]

See also



  1. ^ a b "Equality Act 2010". The National Archives. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  2. ^ E McGaughey, A Casebook on Labour Law (Hart 2019) chs 12–14. S Deakin and G Morris, Labour Law (Hart 2012) ch 6. 'Equality Act 2010 Explanatory Notes/Introduction/Background and summary'
  3. ^ see EU Directive 2000/78/EC, 2000/43/EC, 2006/54/EC
  4. ^ "Race discrimination". Equality and Human Rights Commission.
  5. ^ What is race discrimination? – Equality law: discrimination explained. Equality and Human Rights Commission. 29 May 2018. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021 – via YouTube.
  6. ^ "Your rights under the Equality Act 2010". Equality and Human Rights Commission.
  7. ^ "Non-discrimination". European Commission.
  8. ^ Equality Act, schedule 3, part 7, para 28.
  9. ^ Equality Act, s.217.
  10. ^ "Discrimination Law Review (DLR)". Government Equalities Office. Archived from the original on 20 March 2008. Retrieved 18 May 2008.
  11. ^ See also, Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations
  12. ^ guardian.co.uk: "Harman's law is Labour's biggest idea for 11 years" (Toynbee) 13 January 2009
  13. ^ "10th Anniversary of the Equality Act (2010) – What does it mean?". 30 September 2020.
  14. ^ "About the Duty". Scottish Government. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  15. ^ Equality Act 2010 Statutory Code of Practice – Services, public functions and associations (PDF). Equality and Human Rights Commission. 2011. pp. 179–182. ISBN 9780108509728. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  16. ^ See the debate in Hansard HC vol 508 cols 927–942 (6 April 2010)
  17. ^ "Move to change succession laws". BBC. 20 April 2008. Retrieved 21 April 2008.
  18. ^ Andrew Pierce (29 April 2008). "U-turn on royal succession law change". The Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 6 July 2008.
  19. ^ [2004] EWHC 860 (Admin)
  20. ^ a b English, Welsh bishops say Equality Bill redefines who can be priest[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ "Equality Bill redefines who can be priest: UK Bishops". Cathnews.com. 10 December 2009. Archived from the original on 3 January 2010. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
  22. ^ "Myth-Busting: the Equality Bill and Religion" (PDF). Government Equalities Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 October 2010. Retrieved 10 January 2010. In the case of Ministers of Religion and other jobs which exist to promote and represent religion, the Bill recognises that a church may need to impose requirements regarding sexual orientation, sex, marriage and civil partnership or gender reassignment if it is necessary to comply with its teachings or the strongly held beliefs of followers. However, it would not be right to permit such requirements across all jobs within organised religions, such as administrators and accountants, and the Equality Bill makes this clear.
  23. ^ UK Government attacked over Equality Bill
  24. ^ "Protected characteristics". Equality and Human Rights Commission. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  25. ^ "Equality Act 2010". legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  26. ^ "Sex discrimination". Equality and Human Rights Commission. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  27. ^ "Equality Act provisions: commencement dates". Government Equalities Office and Equality and Human Rights Commission. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  28. ^ "The Equality Act 2010 (Commencement No. 13) (Scotland) Order 2017". Legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  29. ^ "The Equality Act 2010 (Authorities subject to the Socio-economic Inequality Duty) (Scotland) Regulations 2018". Legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  30. ^ "About the Duty". Scottish Government. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  31. ^ age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation
  32. ^ s 13 direct discrimination, s 14 discrimination arising from disability, s 15 gender reassignment discrimination: cases of absence from work, s 16 pregnancy and maternity discrimination: non-work cases, s 17 pregnancy and maternity discrimination: work cases, s 18 indirect discrimination; Adjustments for disabled persons: s 19 duty to make adjustments, s 20 failure to comply with duty, s 21 regulations, s 22 comparison by reference to circumstances, s 23 references to particular strands of discrimination, s 24 harassment, s 25 victimisation
  33. ^ Employees: s 36 Employees and applicants, s 37 Employees and applicants: harassment, s 38 contract workers; Police officers: s 39 identity of employer, s 40 interpretation; Partners: s 41, partnerships, s 42 limited liability partnerships, s 43 interpretation; The Bar: s 44 barristers, s 45 advocates; Office holders: s 46 personal offices, s 47 public offices: appointments, etc, s 48 public offices: recommendations for appointments, etc., s 49 interpretation and exceptions; Qualifications: s 50 qualification bodies, s 51 interpretation; Employment services: s 52 employment service providers, s 53 interpretation; Trade organisations: s 54 trade organisations; Local authority members: s 55 official business of members, s 56 interpretation
  34. ^ s 57 Non-discrimination rule, s 58 Communications
  35. ^ Sex equality: s 59 Relevant types of work, s 60 Equal work, s 61 Sex equality clause, s 62 Sex equality rule, s 63 Sex equality rule: consequential alteration of schemes, s 64 Defence of material factor, s 65 Exclusion of sex discrimination provisions, s 66 Sex discrimination in relation to contractual pay; Pregnancy and maternity equality: s 67 Relevant types of work, s 68 Maternity equality clause, s 69 Maternity equality clause: pay, s 70 Maternity equality rule, s 71 Exclusion of pregnancy and maternity discrimination provisions; Disclosure of information: s 72 Discussions with colleagues, s 73 Gender pay gap information; Supplementary: s 74 Colleagues, s 75 Interpretation and exceptions
  36. ^ s 76 Ships and hovercraft, s 77 Offshore work, s 78 Interpretation and exceptions
  37. ^ s 182, reasonable adjustments; s 183 improvements to let dwelling houses
  38. ^ statutory provisions, national security, charities, sport, general, age
  39. ^ Cabinet Office, Procurement Policy Note – Public Procurement and the Public Sector Equality Duty: Information Note 01/13 28 January 2013, accessed 11 February 2021
  40. ^ UK Legislation, Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations: Introduction, accessed 11 February 2021
  41. ^ Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations: Explanatory Note, accessed 11 February 2021
  42. ^ "Authentic Equity Alliance C.I.C., R (On the Application Of) v Commission for Equality And Human Rights [2021] EWHC 1623 (Admin) (06 May 2021)". BAILII. Retrieved 15 August 2021.