It is likely that this huge piece of legislation will soon become law. The 3rd and final reading of the Equality Bill is scheduled for March 2010. Large parts of the Act are likely to come into effect in autumn 2010, 5 years after the Discrimination Law Review launched in 2005.
The Act repeals and replaces the Equal Pay Act 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, much of the Equality Act 2006, the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003, the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006, and the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 (all as subsequently amended), plus other ancillary pieces of legislation. At first blush this should make discrimination law far more concise and easy to navigate.
The Act is more ambitious however, than a simple piece of legislation aimed at consolidating preceding material; new legal concepts such as 'perceived discrimination and 'Protected Characteristics' emerge for the first time.
There will be increased support for disabled people in the Equality Act
Enquiries About Health - Pre-Employment
The Act is likely to include a new clause 40 on pre-employment enquiries about disability and health, which should diminish the likelihood of disabled not reaching the interview stage.
If an applicant claims that a potential employer has enquired about his or her health before making 'a relevant decision', the new clause 40 shifts the burden of proof onto the employer so that, in the absence of any other explanation, the tribunal must hold that a contravention has occurred. A relevant decision is one that determines progression to the next round of the application process or a decision on who gets the job.
Employers can ask some questions relating to disability before employment however, the section will not apply to questions which are necessary to establish whether;
a duty to make reasonable adjustments arises;
to monitor diversity in applicants;
to enable an employer to take positive action;
or, if the employer requires a potential employee to have a particular disability, the questions necessary to establish this.
This will soon form part of a CPD course found on www.cupidtraining.co.uk