The Equality Act 2010 was designed to simplify and strengthen protection from discrimination, and support progress towards equality.
There is no doubt the Act has played a key role in protecting employees from discrimination over the last 10 years. Countless tribunal cases have been based on its provisions, covering all manner of issues, from single instances of harassment or company-wide discrimination to the abolition of tribunal fees.
In addition, it has created frameworks designed to highlight and address inequalities, such as the creation of gender pay gap reporting obligations.
As it reaches its 10th anniversary, the Act is arguably more relevant today than when first enacted with behaviours and values being constantly challenged. Discrimination cases continue to pour into the tribunal, with recent decisions including the extension of protection to gender fluid people and accepting ethical veganism as a protected belief. The Act appears set to continue in this central role, with major equal pay cases due to be determined in the coming year and the impact of COVID-19 adversely affecting many protected groups.
However, the Act has not been without criticism. Most recently, the TUC has called it a “missed opportunity”, and pressed the Government to enact certain provisions of the Act that are not currently in force. This includes a duty on public bodies to put the reduction of socio-economic inequality at the forefront on their decision-making, and allowing “dual discrimination” claims to be heard.
With cases continuing to push the boundaries of the legislation, and questions arising over whether it could go even further, it is clear the next 10 years will be just as intriguing and challenging as the first.