The Equality Act 2010 provides that all employees have the right not to be discriminated against on the following grounds (which are known as ‘protected characteristics’):
- race (including race, nationality, ethnicity and ethnic origin and colour)
- sexual orientation
- religion or belief
- pregnancy or maternity
- transgender status.
Types of unlawful discrimination include:
- Direct discrimination: treating an employee less favourably because of a protected characteristic. This involves treating them less favourably because they associate with someone of that characteristic (eg they are a parent of a disabled child) or because they are perceived to have that characteristic.
- Indirect discrimination: where a provision, criterion or practice places people with a protected characteristic at a disadvantage and places a particular person with that characteristic at that disadvantage. Here, an apparently neutral action has a particular impact on one group (eg a requirement to work full time may impact disproportionately upon women who have childcare responsibilities). Indirect discrimination can be justified and is therefore not unlawful, if it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. A requirement to work full time may be justified depending on the reasons for it, and whether there is a way that this objective could be achieved with a less discriminatory impact.
- Harassment: a person harasses another if they engage in unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic and the conduct has the purpose of effect of violating the recipient’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the recipient. It should be noted that it is either the purpose or the effect of the acts that needs to be considered and therefore conduct that would have the effect of harassing an individual does not need to have been intended by the harasser to have that effect.
- Victimisation: this is where someone is subjected to a detriment because they have done a protected act or are believed to have done so. This includes bringing discrimination proceedings, giving evidence or information in connection with such proceedings and making an allegation that another person has discriminated.
Information on Girlguiding’s Equality and Diversity Policy is available from the Guiding Manual.
Reasonable adjustments for disability
Disability is broadly defined for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010, and includes any physical or mental impairment which has a substantial longterm adverse effect on that person’s ability to carry out normal daytoday activities. Substantial means more than minor and longterm means lasting or likely to last for 12 months. Certain conditions are also deemed to be disabilities even if they are asymptomatic, for instance cancer, MS and HIV.
Where a provision, criterion or practice or a physical feature puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage compared to someone who is not disabled, the employer must take such steps as are reasonable to have to take to avoid that disadvantage. This imposes a positive duty on employers to remove obstacles to participation of disabled people in the workplace, and is something that needs to be taken into account at all stages in dealings with a disabled employee (from the recruitment stage as mentioned above to the stage of dismissal as outlined below).
In certain very limited circumstances, there may be an ‘occupational requirement’ to employ or not to employ someone with a particular protected characteristic. Legal advice should be sought before relying on there being an occupational requirement.
Part-time workers and fixed-term employees
Part-time workers and fixed-term employees have the legal right to be treated no less favourably than full-time and permanent comparators who are carrying out the same work. Parttime workers may have terms and conditions applied to them on a pro rata basis, but any other less favourable treatment needs to be objectively justified. The expiry of a fixed term contract is a dismissal for legal purposes and therefore if the fixed-term employee has two years’ or more service, it is essential to follow a fair process as outlined below and treat this as a redundancy situation (including making a redundancy payment, if applicable). Fixed-term employees are also entitled to be informed of any full-time vacancies that their employer may have throughout their employment.