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Equality Act - 2010


Equality Act 2010

Periodically the Government brings together several pieces of legislation and combines them. However, this can also coincide with changes being introduced which have a key impact on employers and can be overlooked.

The Equality Act 2010, to be introduced in October 2010 is just such a piece of legislation.

There have been several features in the National Press which have lead to the following questions. This is a complex piece of legislation and the questions and answers can only cover specifics. If you have a question please email the HJI.

I keep reading about the Equality Act 2010 – does it change anything for me as a salon owner?

In a single Act it now covers the same groups who are currently protected from discrimination eg, gender, age, disability etc.(protected categories of employee, previously under separate pieces of Employment Law) However, there are some new features which include eg “associative discrimination” (where someone suffers discrimination bias because they are “associated” with someone with protected characteristics, or even because colleagues “think” they belong in a protected category). For example not being appointed/promoted because they have a disabled child or care for a parent.

Of key importance is that you can now be liable for harassment by a third party eg a customer for a wide range of issues. Previously it was just sexual harassment. Therefore ensuring you have a zero tolerance policy and staff are aware they should report any acts by customers that concern them is now essential.

I’ve read that there s a new definition of what is a disability. Can you clarify this for me.

The definition has been simplified. The extension allows people to claim discrimination if they are discriminated against for something as a “consequence of a disability”. For example it might be they have a slightly higher level of absence. ACAS gives the example of someone with dyslexia making more spelling mistakes and being disciplined.

I routinely give applicants a health questionnaire prior to interview. Is this still allowed?

This is quite a complex area but it is clear the blanket approach of a questionnaire to applicants is no longer valid. It is suggested that you can ask candidates if they need any reasonable adjustments to do the job but their answers must not influence your selection decision. However, once having offered the job you are free to ask a health related questions.

Will anything in the Equality Act impact specifically on salons?

Anything in the Act could impact on a salon at any time. Interestingly the Act makes it “unlawful” for you to prevent your employees from chatting with colleagues to find out if they are paid differently – ie more! The employee might be of the view they are being disadvantaged due to having PC (Protected Characteristics). It is relatively commonplace for salons to restrict staff from sharing pay details. Of course if pay differences are soundly and objectively based there should be no need for security.

However, the Contract can still be used to ensure pay levels are kept confidential from competitors.

The new Equality Act - What do I need to do?

To some extent that depends on what policies and practices you already have in place. You should certainly review your selection procedures and your application form .If you do not have a anti bullying and harassment policy it is probably a good time to put one in place. You should emphasise to staff that they should report any harassment from clients and you need to act to ensure it isn’t tolerated. It is often tempting to think that if you are a small salon that these issues are not relevant to you. Believe me the evidence and my experience shows that this is not the case.

David Wright Personnel

Phone - 01522 831 061

Mobile - 07930 358 067