Under the so called "Equality Act" which was Harriet Harman's legacy and has just come into effect all sorts of "groups" such as vegans, teetotallers, athiests etc. are to be given the same protection as religious groups, AND, gypsies and travellers are granted "special status" because they are "socio-economically disadvantaged".
Worst of all however, it introduces the concept of "third party harassment" meaning employers are legally responsible for protecting staff from such things as abuse by customers.
As this new law stands employers could be sued if a staff member makes a joke which another staff member (who bizzarely doesnt even have to overhear the joke) feels "offended by it.
In addition there are proposals not yet implimented to enforce "positive discrimination", to force local authorities to spend extra money in allegedly "deprived" areas, and possibly to force companies to move to "deprived" areas and to possitively discriminate in favour of job applicant from such areas or from "minority" groups.
In full the provisions which came into force on 1st October 23010 are -
- The basic framework of protection against direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation in services and public functions; premises; work; education; associations, and transport.
- Changing the definition of gender reassignment, by removing the requirement for medical supervision.
- Levelling up protection for people discriminated against because they are perceived to have, or are associated with someone who has, a protected characteristic, so providing new protection for people like carers.
- Clearer protection for breastfeeding mothers;
- Applying the European definition of indirect discrimination to all protected characteristics.
- Extending protection from indirect discrimination to disability.
- Introducing a new concept of “discrimination arising from disability”, to replace protection under previous legislation lost as a result of a legal judgment.
- Applying the detriment model to victimisation protection (aligning with the approach in employment law).
- Harmonising the thresholds for the duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people.
- Extending protection from 3rd party harassment to all protected characteristics.
- Making it more difficult for disabled people to be unfairly screened out when applying for jobs, by restricting the circumstances in which employers can ask job applicants questions about disability or health.
- Allowing claims for direct gender pay discrimination where there is no actual comparator.
- Making pay secrecy clauses unenforceable.
- Extending protection in private clubs to sex, religion or belief, pregnancy and maternity, and gender reassignment.
- Introducing new powers for employment tribunals to make recommendations which benefit the wider workforce.
- Harmonising provisions allowing voluntary positive action
Personally if any of my staff make a complaint against another member of staff because of a bit of office banter then they had better file a claim for unfair dismisal too because I would instantly dismiss them I expect staff to be reasonable adults - not politically correct muppets.