Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 is the key piece of legislation that organisations in Wales need to be aware of.
Housing Associations (Registered Social Landlords), Local Authorities, support providers and contractors have legal obligations under the Act as providers of goods and services and employers. These obligations will be slightly different depending on the type of organisation.
Accessing Members Resources
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The Equality Act 2010 tells us who is protected from discrimination. These are known as protected groups or protected characteristics.
The protected characteristics identified under the Equality Act are:
This refers to a person belonging to a particular age (e.g. 32 year olds) or range of ages (e.g. 18 – 30 year olds). The protected characteristic Age is not covered by Part 4: Premises within the Act.
A person is defined in the legislation as having a disability if they have 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.
This refers to the process of transitioning from one gender to another (from male to female or female to male) and falls under the equality strand described as gender identity.
Marriage is defined as a formal union between a man and a woman or two people of the same sex. Same-sex couples can additionally have their relationships legally recognized as ‘civil partnerships’. Civil partners must be treated the same as married couples on most legal matters. The protected characteristic Marriage and Civil Partnerships is not covered by Part 4: Premises within the act.
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.
In legislation it refers to a group of people defined by their race, colour, nationality (including citizenship), ethnic or national origins.
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.
This refers to a man or a woman.
Refers to whether a person’s sexual attraction is towards their own sex, the opposite sex or to both sexes. Although in legislation it is defined as a person’s sexual attraction, sexual orientation is a combination of emotional, romantic, sexual or affectionate attraction to another person.
Protected Characteristics Posters
Tai Pawb has produced protected characteristic posters for members. The posters are a useful tool to remind staff what the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 are, to prompt questions and increase awareness of our member helpline amongst staff:
The Equality Act 2010 recognises a number of different forms of discrimination. These can take place in employment and in the delivery of both public and private services and goods.
Citizen’s Advice Bureau has a section on its website which deals with Discrimination in Housing.
Key forms of discrimination
Direct Discrimination happens when a person is treated less favourably/worse, because of a protected characteristic.
For example refusing to provide housing advice to someone because of their sexual orientation would be considered direct discrimination
Indirect discrimination happens when a service provider or employer puts in place a rule or policy or way of doing things that has a negative impact on someone with a protected characteristic when compared with someone without one (when this cannot be objectively justified).
An example of this could be that a housing association has a policy of only reminding tenancy applicants of forthcoming appointments by telephone. This puts Deaf people who cannot use the telephone at a disadvantage, as they do not receive a reminder of their appointment. If this approach cannot be objectively justified then this could be considered indirect discrimination.
Occurs when a person engages in unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity or which is hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive to someone with a protected characteristic. This can be in a way that is sexual in nature.
For example a customer in the reception area overhears a staff member making racist comments. This is harassment as it creates an intimidating, degrading and humiliating environment and violates the customer’s dignity.
Treating someone unfavourably because they have taken (or might be taking) action under the Equality Act 2010 or are supporting somebody who is doing so.
For example a manager refusing to consider someone for promotion because they gave evidence on behalf of a colleague who made a complaint of unlawful sex discrimination.
The Act also identifies the following:
People are protected from discrimination by someone who wrongly perceives them to have one of the protected characteristics and treats them less favourably/worse because of this.
People are protected from discrimination because they are associated with someone who has a protected characteristic. This includes the parent of a disabled child or adult or someone else who is caring for a disabled person.
Treating a disabled person unfavourably because of something connected with their disability when this cannot be justified.
Discrimination arising from a disability is an important consideration for housing providers taking enforcement action against a tenant.
Under the Act service providers and employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments where needed for disabled people.
We often get queries on what is considered reasonable and who pays for reasonable adjustments. The EHRC has useful guidance on its website about these two areas:
Housing and the Public Sector Equality Duties in Wales
The Equality Act introduced the Public Sector Equality Duty. This duty is made up of the general and the specific duties. The duty requires public authorities and organisations carrying out a function of a public nature to take a proactive approach to the prevention of discrimination, promotion of equality and fostering of good relations.
Local Authorities in Wales and the Public Sector Equality Duties
Local Authorities in Wales have to pay due regard to both the general duty and the specific Welsh equality duties. Local authorities are listed bodies in relation to the specific duties. The specific Welsh equality duties cover the following:
- Setting equality objectives
- Strategic equality plans,
- Assessing impact (equality impact assessments)
- Equality information and employment information
- Pay difference
- Staff training
- Annual reporting and publishing of performance.
This duty is relevant to all the departments and functions of the Local Authority including Housing and Homelessness services.
The EHRC has produced the following guidance on the Public Sector Equality Duty in Wales:
Housing Associations and the Public Sector Equality Duty
Registered Social Landlords in Wales are covered by the general equality duty in relation to their functions of a public nature (for example allocation, management and termination of social housing). This is tied to a landmark case in 2009 (Weaver vs. London and Quadrant Housing Trust) which ruled that the housing provider in question was carrying out public functions, for the purposes of the Human Rights Act in the allocation, management and termination of social housing.
Registered Social Landlords are not listed bodies under the specific duties in Wales and do not have to comply with this element of the duty.
However Registered Social Landlords in Wales may wish to look to the specific duty for guidance on tools they can use to demonstrate they are meeting the general public sector equality duty.
EHRC Codes of Practice and Technical Guidance
When looking at issues relating to equality, discrimination and housing the key supporting documents you need to be aware of are the Equality and Human Rights Commission Codes of Practice and technical guidance.
- Code of Practice on Services, Public Functions and Association. (EHRC)
- Code of Practice on Employment (EHRC)
- Code of Practice on Equal Pay (EHRC)
- Technical Guidance on the Public Sector Equality Duty Wales (EHRC)
The Equality Advisory and Support Service has useful information on its websites and template letters that people can use if they wish to make a discrimination complaint.
ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) have a range of guidance and publications available on their website about equality and employment issues.
The Citizen’s Advice has a section on its website which deals with Discrimination in Housing.
Tai Pawb Good Practice Briefings
Organisations that can help if you are experiencing discrimination or harassment
We are an organisation that works directly with housing providers to promote equality and diversity and are unable to provide discrimination or housing advice directly to tenants, applicants and employees. If you are a tenant, applicant, service user or employee and need equality or housing advice please contact the organisations below.
For Discrimination Related Advice
Phone: 0808 800 0082
Text phone: 0808 800 0084
Website: Public Services Ombudsman for Wales
Address: 1 Ffordd yr Hen Gae, Pencoed, CF35 5LJ
Phone: 0300 790 0203
Race Equality First
Website: Race Equality First
Address: Race Equality First, 1st Floor West, 113-116 Bute Street, Cardiff, CF10 5EQ
Phone: 02920 486207
Fax: 02920 494419
SEWREC – South East Wales Regional Equality Council
Address: SEWREC, St Davids House, 137 Commercial Street, Newport, NP20 1LN
Phone: 01633 250 006
Fax: 01633 264 075
SBREC – Swansea Bay Regional Equality Council
Address: SBREC, 3rd Floor Grove House, Grove Place, Swansea, SA1 5DF
Phone: 01792 457035
Fax: 01792 459374
NEWREN – North Wales Regional Equality Network
Address: NEWREN, The Equality Centre, Bangor Road, Penmaenmawr, Conwy, LL34 6LF
Phone: 01492 622233
For Housing Related Advice:
Please note the material in this section is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Tai Pawb is not responsible for the content of external resources.