Department for Work and Pensions

Equality Act 2010 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995

About the Equality Act 2010 and how it affects civil servants


What is the purpose of the Equality Act 2010?

The main purpose of the Equality Act 2010 (EA) is to streamline and strengthen anti-discrimination legislation in Great Britain. It provides the legal framework that protects people, including disabled people, from discrimination. It replaces a range of anti-discrimination legislation, including the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) and subsequent amendments. The EA does not replace the UK-related parts of the DDA for civil servants working in Northern Ireland.

The EA ensures that the legal framework of equality law is more consistent for all people with protected characteristics, for example, race and gender (Section 4 of the EA and the Equality and Human Rights website both offer a detailed explanation of ‘protected characteristics’). By simplifying and consolidating previous equality legislation, the Act is intended to be easier to operate and understand than previous equality legislation.

What is the difference for disabled people between the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the Equality Act 2010?

The EA generally carries forward the protection provided for disabled people by the DDA. However, there are key differences.

What is the legal definition of disability?

The EA generally defines a disabled person as someone who has a mental or physical impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. This differs slightly from the definition in the DDA, which also required the disabled person to show that an adversely affected normal day-to-day activity involved one of a list of capacities such as mobility, speech, or hearing.

What does the Equality Act mean for civil servants?

The majority of the EA provisions came into force from 1 October 2010. The new public sector Equality Duty for public authorities came into force on 5 April 2011.

In the light of their responsibilities as employers, as providers of services to the public and in the carrying out of public functions, those in government departments should understand the EA and how it affects their area of work.

The Codes of Practice produced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission provides advice and guidance on how the provisions of the Act operate in practice.

The Government Equalities Office has produced an introduction to the EA on its website with links to a series of summary guidance. It has also published quick-start guides on particular topics including disability, carers and harassment.

Statutory guidance on definition of disability

The Equality Act includes the legal definition of a disabled person who is protected from discrimination. This definition is slightly different from the definition used in the Disability Discrimination Act. The guidance reflects these changes and help people to understand how the definition works. The guidance is draft until it commences on 01 May 2011. If you require this guidance in an alternative format, please contact the Government Equality Office.



Beyond the Office for Disability Issues

Page last reviewed: 05 April 2011

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