The Equality Act 2010, reasonable adjustments, occupational requirements and working part-time and fixed-term

Make sure you don't discriminate against any employees.

The Equality Act 2010 says that all employees have the right not to be discriminated against on the following grounds, which are known as ‘protected characteristics’: 

  • age 
  • disability 
  • gender reassignment 
  • marriage and civil partnership 
  • pregnancy or maternity 
  • race (including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins) 
  • religion or belief 
  • sex 
  • sexual orientation 

Types of unlawful discrimination include: 

  • Direct discrimination: treating an employee less favourably because of a protected characteristic. This includes treating them less favourably because they associate with someone of that characteristic (for example, they’re a parent of a disabled child) or because they are perceived to have that characteristic. 
  • Indirect discrimination: where a provision, criterion or practice places people with a protected characteristic at a disadvantage and places a particular person with that characteristic at that disadvantage. Here, an apparently neutral action has a particular impact on one group. For example, a requirement to work full time may impact disproportionately upon women who have childcare responsibilities. Indirect discrimination can be justified, which means it is therefore not unlawful if it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. A requirement to work full time may be justified depending on the reasons for it, and whether there’s a way that this objective could be achieved with a less discriminatory impact. 
  • Harassment: a person harasses another person if they engage in unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic, and the conduct has the purpose of effect of violating the recipient’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the recipient. It should be noted that it’s either the purpose or the effect of the acts that needs to be considered. Therefore, conduct that would have the effect of harassing an individual doesn’t need to have been intended by the harasser to have that effect. 
  • Victimisation: this is where someone is subjected to a detriment because they have done a protected act or are believed to have done so. This includes bringing discrimination proceedings, giving evidence or information in connection with such proceedings and making an allegation that another person has discriminated. 

Find more information about Girlguiding’s Equality and diversity policy. 

Reasonable adjustments for disability 

Disability is broadly defined for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 and includes any physical or mental impairment which has a substantial long-term adverse effect on that person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Substantial means more than minor and long-term means lasting, or likely to last, for at least 12 months. Certain conditions are also deemed to be disabilities even if they are asymptomatic, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and HIV. 

Where a provision, criterion or practice or a physical feature puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage compared to someone who is not disabled, the employer must take reasonable steps to avoid that disadvantage. The employers have a duty to remove obstacles to participation of disabled people in the workplace. It's something that needs to be considered at all stages, from the recruitment stage to the stage of dismissal of a disabled employee. 

Occupational requirement 

In certain, limited, circumstances, there may be an ‘occupational requirement’ to employ or not to employ someone with a particular protected characteristic. Legal advice should be sought before relying on there being an occupational requirement. 

Part-time workers and fixed-term employees 

Part-time workers and fixed-term employees have the legal right to be treated no less favourably than full-time and permanent employees who are carrying out the same work. Part-time workers might have terms and conditions applied to them on a pro-rata basis, but any other, less favourable, treatment needs to be objectively justified. The expiry of a fixed-term contract is a dismissal for legal purposes and therefore, if the fixed-term employee has worked for the employer for one year and 51 weeks or more, it’s essential to follow a fair process and treat it as a redundancy situation. This could include making a redundancy payment. Fixed-term employees are also entitled to be informed of any full-time vacancies that their employer may have throughout their employment.