NEW EQUALITY LEGISLATION PROVIDES OPPORTUNITY
NEW EQUALITY LEGISLATION PROVIDES OPPORTUNITY FOR COMPANIES TO REAP THE BUSINESS BENEFITS OF GOOD PRACTICE
New equality legislation which was passed by MPs on 6 April 2010 and is now going forward for Royal Assent. The main provisions of the Equality Act will come into force in October this year, with some provisions being introduced at a later date.
The new legislation replaces nine existing laws, and both simplifies and extends current provision. This can be seen as either a burden or an opportunity. Equality consultancy The Diversity People sees it as a welcome opportunity for companies to ensure they reap all the many business benefits to be gained from genuinely implementing good equality practice ,as opposed to merely 'ticking the boxes'.
Managing Director Jane Hatton says "Organisations will need to familiarise themselves with the new requirements and successful ones will already be doing all that is necessary under the new legislation - not because they are legally obliged to, but because it makes sound business sense in terms of appealing to a wider range of customers and employing the very best people."
Some important changes in the new legislation include preventing the use of health questionnaires in recruitment (with some exceptions), and new rules on the use of positive action/discrimination. The groups of people covered by legislation has been extended to include discrimination by association and perception.
There is much concern about the proposed requirement for organisations to report on gender pay gaps. However, the new law just gives the government the option to require companies that employ more than 250 people (or 150 if a public sector organisation) to report their gender pay gap from 2013, if enough havent already done this voluntarily. Allied to this will be changing the culture of secrecy around pay, so that discriminatory pay can more easily be seen and challenged.
Businesses would be advised to check their own policies and practices against the new legislation to ensure they are harnessing all the benefits and not inadvertently breaking the law.