With the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 (the Act) having just being passed last month, things are definitely progressing forward with regards to human liberty. Human rights and equality in the work place are regulated under the Equality Act 2010. This Act covers nine protected characteristics, these are Age, Disability, Gender reassignment, Marriage and civil partnership, Pregnancy and maternity, Race, Religion and belief, Sex and Sexual orientation. These characteristics are diverse amongst any set number of employees. There must be equal access to all areas of work for all employees. Health and safety excuses should never be used for discriminatory action. Employers who make reasonable adjustments to the workplace to accommodate a diverse workforce know that this makes good business sense. Examples include allowing religious holidays, flexi time for new mums and other adaptations to the working environment. Any barriers to job promotion or discriminatory behavior must be tackled for the health and safety of the workforce.
Characteristics protected by law
- Age. Age discrimination is where someone is treated unfavorably, harassed or victimized because of their age. The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 means that employers can no longer discriminate against employees on grounds of age.
- Religion and Belief. Under human rights and anti-discrimination legislation, one has the right to their own religious beliefs or none at all. Under the Equality Act, one cannot discriminate against another because of their religion or belief. The applies to all areas of employment, in education, in providing services and in exercising public functions.
- Sexual Orientation. It is unlawful to treat someone less favorably because of their sexual orientation or those whom they associate with. This is regulated under the Sexual Orientation Regulations 2003.
- Disability. Under the Disability Discrimination Act one cannot be discriminated against because of a mental or physical disability. This applies to all areas of employment, in education, in renting/buying land/property and in having access to goods or facilities. The regulations deal with all modes of transport in regards to helping people with mobility, sensory impairments and learning difficulties. The legislation provides disabled people with rights in education and employment. Employers need to identify adjustments and support the employee in carrying out their job role.
- Gender. It is unlawful to treat people differently because of their gender. Discrimination may be direct, done in a harassing or victimizing way or indirectly. Under the Equality Act it is unlawful to behave in this way.
- Race. It is unlawful to discriminate on race, ethnicity, nationality or national origins. Under the Race Relations Act, it is unlawful to discriminate in employment, in education, in housing, facilities and services and in any public function.
- Transgender. The Sex Discrimination Act prohibits gender re-assignment persons from being victimized.
The HSE is committed to embracing the diversity of Britain’s workforce. They promote an Equality Duty which includes specific objectives. One is to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimization. Another is to make sure there is equality of duty between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not share it. An example of a protected characteristic could be religion or gender. Lastly, to promote good relations between all, whether they have a protected characteristic or not.