The Equality Act 2010 

What you, your staff and the public need to know.

“Equality may perhaps be a right, but no power on earth can ever turn it into a fact.” (Honore de Balzac).

Despite this truism successive governments have tried to engineer the society we live in, by means of legislation, into a fairer place to live and work. Over the years a raft of separate laws has been enacted to make equality of opportunity and protection from discrimination a right for all. With the passing of the Equality Act 2010 comes a unifying law that brings together these disparate policies and legislation.

The act is intended to simplify the law, remove inconsistencies and make it easier for us all to understand and comply with the law. However, it does go further than mere harmonisation, it is designed to strengthen the law to further tackle discrimination and inequality.

How does it affect me and my pub?

The Equality Act 2010 came into force on October 1st, 2010 and it covers both public and private sectors so your pub (as a provider of goods and services and as a place of employment) will come within its reach.

Who does the law protect?

Anyone who uses your pub, buys your food and drink or uses your facilities such as toilets and car parks will have the protection of the law on the basis of “protected characteristics”.

What are “protected characteristics”?

These are the means by which the law and those bound by it recognise those that are covered by the law: age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race (including ethnic or national origins as well as colour and nationality), religion or belief, gender and sexual orientation.

One of the several changes to anti-discrimination law the Act brings in is that (with the exception of pregnancy and maternity) anyone has the law on their side without sharing any of the “protected characteristics”. For example if you unfairly treat a person because you think they are of protected characteristics or with others who are protected you will be breaking the law.

Your pub should welcome everyone and you and your staff should treat anyone using your pub and buying your food and drink fairly. The law now says that you have to do this regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, gender reassignment, religion or belief. The law also means you will have to guard against making assumptions about the characteristics of individuals.

This is all well and good in theory but how do you get into this non-discriminatory mind-set? Here are some examples and the characteristics you may encounter.

Age – Joe has been drinking in the pub for donkey’s years – he is 70 and you are going to put on a school dinners and school disco party. When Joe comes in the pub that night he is told he is not welcome by other customers because he is too old. Joe had been discriminated against and you are partly liable for allowing this to happen.

Disability – Sandra is wheelchair bound but drives a specially adapted car – when she comes to the pub there is often nowhere near the entrance to park and she finds it difficult to manoeuvre her wheelchair from her car to the bar. You could make the space(s) nearest to the entrance to the bar a reserved space for disabled drivers. This would mean that Sandra is not being treated unfairly and you are actually making a “positive action” which the law says you can do.

Gender reassignment – John is now Jenny – he was a man but has now changed his gender to that of a woman. You cannot refuse to serve her or allow her to be harassed in your pub because of her sex change, nor, for instance, can you refuse to allow her to use the ladies toilet even if biological women object.

Pregnancy and maternity – Paula comes into the pub with her baby – she has some lunch and the baby needs feeding. A customer objects and asks a member of staff to tell Paula to stop feeding her baby. Your member of staff explains how the new Act specifically makes it unlawful to stop her from breast-feeding her baby in the pub.

Race – a group of lads are in watching a football match on the big screen – one of them is making loud racially offensive remarks about one of the players on the TV – Dave who is a black man hears the comments and is upset by them. The law says that as Dave did not want to hear these comments and it humiliated him and he felt degraded by the comments then Dave can bring a claim of racial harassment. As a provider of services and goods you have a duty to prevent this from happening or you can be held liable too.

Religion or belief – Sandeep is having a night out and comes to your pub – your door supervisor prevents him from coming in as your dress code doesn’t allow patrons to where hoodies and hats in the bar – Sandeep is wearing his turban. Sandeep is being treated unfairly because his religious beliefs mean he must wear a turban and you and your door supervisor have broken the law.

Gender – you allow stag do’s but don’t allow hen parties – you are treating women unfairly – you must allow both or neither.

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