Equality Act 2010 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995
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.
- The DDA provided protection for disabled people from direct discrimination only in employment and related areas. The EA protects disabled people against direct discrimination in areas beyond the employment field (such as the supply of goods, facilities and services).
- The EA introduced improved protection from discrimination that occurs because of something connected with a person’s disability. This form of discrimination can be justified if it can be shown to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
- The EA introduced the principle of indirect discrimination for disability. Indirect discrimination occurs when something applies in the same way to everybody but has an effect which particularly disadvantages, for example, disabled people. Indirect discrimination may be justified if it can be shown to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
- The EA applies one trigger point at which there is a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people. This trigger point is where a disabled person would be at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled people if the adjustment was not made.
- The EA extends protection from harassment that is related to disability. Previously, explicit protection only applied in relation to work. The EA applies this protection to areas beyond work.
- The EA provides protection from direct disability discrimination and harassment where this is based on a person’s association with a disabled person, or on a false perception that the person is disabled.
- The EA contains a provision which limits the type of enquiries that a recruiting employer can make about disability and health when recruiting new staff. This provision will help prevent disabled candidates from being unfairly screened out at an early stage of the recruitment process.
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.
- The Equality Act and Explanatory Notes at legislation.gov.uk
- Equality Act Codes of Practice at the Equality and Human Rights website
- Government response to the consultation ‘Guidance on matters to be taken into account in determining questions relating to the definition of disability’ (PDF, 24 pages, 102 KB)
- Equality Act 2010 definition of disability guidance (PDF, 60 pages, 830 KB)
- Public Sector Equality Duty
- UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People
- Disabled people and legislation
Beyond the Office for Disability Issues
- The Equality Act 2010: what do I need to know? at Government Equalities Office website
- Contact the Government Equalities Office
- Definitions of protected characteristics on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website
Page last reviewed: 05 April 2011