Wealden District Council

Equality Legislation

Equality is about everyone having the same chances in life and getting the same access to the services they need.  The council aims to make sure that everyone is fairly and equally treated.

The Equality Act 2010 came into force from 1 October 2010.  It brought together over 116 separate pieces of legislation into one single act to make the law simpler and to remove inconsistencies. This makes the law easier for people to understand and comply with.

What is covered by the Equality Act?

The act covers nine protected characteristics, which cannot be used as a reason to treat people unfairly. Every person has one or more of the protected characteristics, so the act protects everyone against unfair treatment.

The act sets out the different ways in which it is unlawful to treat someone, such as:

  • direct discrimination, 
  • indirect discrimination,
  • harassment,
  • victimisation, and
  • failing to make a reasonable adjustment for a disabled person.

The act prohibits unfair treatment:

  • in the workplace,
  • when providing goods, facilities and services,
  • when exercising public functions,
  • in the disposal and management of premises,
  • in education, and
  • by associations (such as private clubs).

Protected Characteristics

The protected characteristics are important because people from these groups may have particular needs that we need to be aware of.

The protected characteristics are:

Age

Refers to a person belonging to a particular age (e.g. 32 year olds) or range of ages (e.g. 18 - 30 year olds).

Disability

A person has a disability if s/he has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on that person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Gender reassignment

The process of transitioning from one gender to another.

Marriage and civil partnership

Marriage is defined as a 'union between a man and a woman'. Same-sex couples can have their relationships legally recognised as 'civil partnerships'. Civil partners must be treated the same as married couples on a wide range of legal matters.

Pregnancy and maternity 

Pregnancy is the condition of being pregnant or expecting a baby. Maternity refers to the period after the birth, and is linked to maternity leave in the employment context. In the non-work context, protection against maternity discrimination is for 26 weeks after giving birth, and this includes treating a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding.

Race

Refers to the protected characteristic of Race. It refers to a group of people defined by their race, colour, and nationality (including citizenship) ethnic or national origins.

Religion or belief

Religion has the meaning usually given to it but belief includes religious and philosophical beliefs including lack of belief (e.g. Atheism). Generally, a belief should affect your life choices or the way you live for it to be included in the definition.

Sex

A man or a woman.

Sexual orientation

Whether a person's sexual attraction is towards their own sex, the opposite sex or to both sexes.

What is the public sector Equality Duty?

The public sector Equality Duty is a section of the Equality Act.  It requires public bodies, like the Council, and those who provide public functions to consider all individuals when:

  • shaping policy,
  • delivering services, and
  • in relation to their own employees.

The aims of the Equality Duty

The Duty requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to:

  • Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Act.
  • Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.
  • Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.

Advancing equality means:

  • Removing or minimising disadvantages suffered by people due to their protected characteristics.
  • Taking steps to meet the needs of people from protected groups where these are different from the needs of other people.
  • Encouraging people from protected groups to participate in public life or in other activities where their participation is disproportionately low.

Complying with this Duty is a legal requirement.

Specific Duties

The Equality Duty is supported by 'specific duties' to assist public bodies like us to achieve the aims of the general duty.

Under the specific duties, the Council must:

  • Publish equalities information to demonstrate its compliance with the Equality Duty by the 31st January 2011 and then annually after that; and
  • Develop and publish equality objectives by 6 April 2012 and then every four years.

This section of our website provides the equality information required under the Act.