Throughout your course experience and when moving into the Forensic field, you will need to study and understand a wide variety of different Laws and Legislation linked with equality and diversity. Whether you’re acting on behalf of a defendant or are just asked to pick out a Jury, you must under no circumstances take judgement due to different races, gender, sexuality, religion, or even age. Some examples of what to expect are below.
The Equality Act is effective from the 1st October 2010 and aims to simplify discriminatory law by strengthening and adapting legislation, some of which stretches back as far as forty years or so.
The Equality Act could be classed as an umbrella term which encompasses the following Acts:
- Race Relations Act 1976
- Sex Discrimination Acts 1975
- Disability Discrimination Act 1995
- Equal Pay Act 1970
- Equality Act 2006
- Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003
- Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 and 2007
- Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
Further, the Act provides for ‘Protected Characteristics’ which means that employees are protected from discrimination on the basis of age, race, disability, sex (and sexual orientation), religion (or belief), pregnancy and maternity, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership.
Some important changes made by the Equality Act include:
- Discrimination, both by perception and association are specifically cover by the legislation
- The Gender Reassignment definition has changed. Individuals do not now need to be under the supervision of a medical practitioner in order to be protected from unlawful discrimination
- The Definition of disability has been changed. There is no longer a need to consider a prescribed list of capabilities as per the DDA 1995.
- The Act deems the following forms of discrimination unlawful:
- Direct – when someone is treated less favourably than another
- Perceived – someone may think that an employee may be (perceived) a homosexual when in fact they are heterosexual.
- Associative – this may be linked to a family member for instance who is disabled. A carer may argue that they have been treated unfairly.
- Indirect – where individuals have protected characteristics when they are particularly disadvantaged
- Harassment – Defined as unwanted conduct such as an effect of violating and individual’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or offensive environment
- Victimisation - Occurs when an employer subjects a person to a detriment because they have/may have carried out a protected act. Victimisation may mean making and individual’s position worse or putting an individual at a disadvantage
- Disability Discrimination. The Act now includes ‘discrimination arising from disability’.
Duty to make reasonable adjustments. Employers are responsible for making reasonable adjustments to working policy or materials/premises as not to disadvantage a disabled person
Pre-Employment Health Questionnaires – Employers are now restricted from asking applicants about their health or whether they have any disabilities before making an offer of work. Where adjustments need to be made for applicants involved in a recruitment campaign, this could be an exception.
Employers must take great care when recruiting, dismissing or dealing with staff in order to ensure that their practices are fair and non-discriminatory. This care must be exerted from the placing of an advertisement (which does not rule anyone out) right through to choosing staff for redundancy.
Employees (and prospective employees) have a right to be treated fairly and lawfully and unless the employer is able to demonstrate good practice and sound reasons for taking employment decisions they leave themselves open to legal action.
Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and 1986 Amendment
The Sex Discrimination Act makes it unlawful to discriminate on grounds of sex in employment and vocational training, education, housing and the provision of goods, facilities and services. It also makes it unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of marriage in relation to employment provision.
The Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999 extended the SDA to make it unlawful to discriminate on grounds of gender reassignment, but only in the areas of employment and vocational training.
Race Relations Act 1976
This Act prohibits discrimination on grounds of colour, race, nationality (including citizenship) and ethnic or national origin. It applies to discrimination in employment and vocational training, education, housing and the provision of goods, facilities and services.
Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000
This Act places enforceable duties on public bodies to:
- To eliminate unlawful discrimination
- To promote equality of opportunity
- To promote good relations between persons of different racial groups.
Public bodies are required to produce and publish a Race Equality Scheme that sets how they will meet these duties. As part of their duties, public bodies that purchase services or contract with private companies require that the companies they contract with are also compliant with the legislation.
Race Regulations 2003
This regulation made changes to the Race Relations Act 1976. The Regulations offer protection on the basis of race or ethnic or national origin not colour or nationality. The original provision of the RRA still stand in relation to colour and nationality. It brings in new definitions of indirect discrimination, racial harassment and genuine occupational requirement. In many aspects of employment practice it mirrors the Employment Equality Regulations.
Disability Discrimination Act 1995
The Act defines disability as a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities.
It makes it unlawful for an employer to treat a disabled person less favourably than they would treat a non-disabled person. The Act applies to all employers regardless of the size of the company.
Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
This regulation protects workers, including those on vocational training programmes, from discriminatory employment practices based on actual or perceived sexual orientation defined as heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual. The controversial exclusion relates to limited circumstances where religious organisations may lawfully be able to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Employment Equality (Region or Belief) Regulations 2003
This regulation protects workers, including those on vocational training programmes, from discriminatory employment practices based on actual or perceived religion or similar belief defined as religion, religious belief or similar philosophical.
Diversity is about respecting individual differences, and people's differences.