Legislation About Equality and Diversity Every Business Should Know

Written by Nicola Wylie
Last updated April 8, 2024

This guide dives deep into the legislation about Equality and Diversity that every UK employer should know.

A 2021 study revealed that ​36% of UK adults report experiencing discrimination at work. The same study indicated that 34% of participants feel they’ve been rejected for a job due to discrimination.

These stats are eye-opening, reflecting that despite anti-discrimination laws, almost a third of the population believes employers are engaging in discriminatory practices.

As an employer, there’s more pressure than ever to ensure your organisation is complying with the latest DEI legislation. A failure to do so, can lead to implications for your business and potential legal action. 

This guide offers a clear overview of the must-known legislation about equality and diversity that every UK employer should know. 

What’s more, we offer actionable tips on how to not only abide by these laws, but how to cultivate an inclusive workplace.

First up: We explore the importance of equality and diversity legislation.


Why Equality and Diversity Legislation in the Workplace Matters

Labour laws that promote inclusion are essential to ensure that UK organisations maintain a consistently high standard of fairness and equality. This creates a fairer system and sets a base standard of fairness and etiquette that every employer must meet.

Of course, this legislation is also fundamental because it protects workers from unfair treatment and discriminatory practices.

Having clear laws in place empowers the workforce to recognise and speak up when their employer is acting in a discriminatory manner.

For employers, this legislation makes it clear what you must not do and the implications of not complying with these laws.

There’s also a very real business advantage.

Here are some interesting stats:

  • Employees in diverse and inclusive organisations are 5.4 times more likely to stay long-term. (Source: Great Place to Work)
  • Businesses in the top 25% for racial diversity were 36% more likely to have superior financial returns. (Source: 250+ Resume Statistics: Length, Success Rates & More). 
  • Finally, research by Gartner recently revealed that “differences of age, ethnicity, gender and other dimensions foster high performance.” 

As an employer, you have a legal responsibility to understand and enforce legislation about diversity and equality in your workplace. This is the bare minimum. 

To be considered a truly inclusive employer, you will need to proactively engage in practices to attract, recruit, and retain more diverse employees. This includes adopting inclusive recruitment processes and implementing equal opportunities policies in your organisation.

Additional reading: How To Move From Diversity To Inclusion 

Now let’s dive into the key laws related to equality and diversity in the UK.


What Is The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 is the most important piece of legislation in the UK when it comes to equality and inclusion. This law came into effect in 2010, replacing previous legislation, in a bid to make equality law clearer and more straightforward.

Under the Act, every private, public, and voluntary organisation must not discriminate against employees based on certain attributes. These are known as protected characteristics

The 2010 Equality Act actively protects people from discrimination based on the following nine protected characteristics:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy or maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation 

Any employer found to discriminate against staff members due to these protected characteristics will face legal action and damages to reputation. The Act also allows positive action, which encourages organisations to offer additional support to some groups to tackle disadvantages and create fairer environments.

The Equality Act 2010 is the single most important legal framework, aiming to protect people from inequality and promote equal opportunities. Nine core pieces of legislation in the Act include:

  • Equal Pay Act 1970
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1975
  • Race Relations Act 1976
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1995
  • Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003
  • Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
  • Equality Act 2006, Part 2
  • Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
  • Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007

Extra reading: Equality, Diversity, And Inclusion Policy Template

Now we’ll turn our attention to another important legislation about equality and diversity that your organisation should be familiar with.


The Human Rights Act 1998 Explained

Another key piece of legislation in the UK is the Human Rights Act 1998. This act outlines the specific rights and freedoms that every person in the UK is entitled to. As a result, the rights outlined in the ECHR are now domestic law in the UK.

The act consists of the following articles or convention rights.

  • Article 2: Right to life
  • Article 3: Freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment
  • Article 4: Freedom from slavery and forced labour
  • Article 5: Right to liberty and security
  • Article 6: Right to a fair trial
  • Article 7: No punishment without law
  • Article 8: Respect for your private and family life, home and correspondence
  • Article 9: Freedom of thought, belief and religion
  • Article 10: Freedom of expression
  • Article 11: Freedom of assembly and association
  • Article 12: Right to marry and start a family
  • Article 14: Protection from discrimination in respect of these rights and freedoms
  • Protocol 1, Article 1: Right to peaceful enjoyment of your property
  • Protocol 1, Article 2: Right to education
  • Protocol 1, Article 3: Right to participate in free elections
  • Protocol 13, Article 1: Abolition of the death penalty

One of the biggest drivers of this Act is that it means individuals can take their case to a UK court (instead of the EU Court of Human Rights). Another important advantage is that it outlines clear human rights standards that all public bodies in the UK must meet.

You may also be interested in: Three Common Barriers To Equality, Diversity, & Inclusion

We mentioned the EHRC briefly in this section, now it’s time to take a closer look.


What Is The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)?

The EHRC is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Cabinet Office. 

According to Gov.UK

“It monitors human rights, protecting equality across 9 grounds – age, disability, sex, race, religion and belief, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.”

The EHRC is instrumental in challenging prejudice and promoting equality laws in the workplace. It works hand-in-hand with the Human Rights Act to uphold high standards of equality and shine a light on areas where discrimination still exists, such as the workplace. 

Now you know why equality laws matter and the key legislation in the UK, let’s finish up with some strategies to create a more inclusive workplace.


Tips For Creating An Inclusive Workplace

Knowing and upholding anti-discrimination policies is just the beginning. If your organisation truly wants to create a diverse and inclusive work environment, you’re going to need to take action.

Here are some tips.

1. Do your research

Understand the laws laid out in this guide and ensure your organisation complies with UK legislation about equality and diversity. 

2. Provide ongoing training

Offer employees at all levels regular training on topics related to diversity, inclusion, and equality. That way, you can ensure that every staff member understands what the terms mean, how your company enforces them, and what behaviours are not tolerated. It’s also a great way to keep up with the latest best practices.

Bonus content: How to Create an Inclusive Work Environment 

3. Regular review EDI policies 

If you don’t already have anti-discrimination, equal opportunities, and other relevant EDI policies in place, what are you waiting for? Not only does this documentation protect you from legal issues, but it showcases your commitment to inclusion and ensures your staff receives fair treatment.

If you already have policies in place, it’s time to review them. As laws, standards, and best practices evolve, you should regularly reassess your current policies, looking for ways to improve them.  Asking staff for feedback and suggestions (anonymously) is another great way to see where your existing policies may be falling short.

4. Get expert advice

Sometimes an outside perspective can give a lot of clarity. For instance, having a third-party DEI specialist assess your current processes could offer valuable insights into how you can create a more inclusive working environment.

Another way to get expert feedback is to invest in job ad inclusivity screening. For example, our DEI specialists at Aspiring to Include can run a full assessment of your current job descriptions. As part of this service, we evaluate your job ad, based on the nine protected characteristics and current gold standards. Then, we provide you with a final score and detailed feedback.

This is an excellent way to identify any non-inclusive or coded language in your recruitment materials that may be costing you quality candidates.

Screen your job ads now.


Next Steps

By law, you are required to protect your staff from discrimination and unfair treatment. We hope this guide makes it clear what legislation your business must know to make sure you meet this responsibility.

Check out our free Employer Resource Hub for more value-packed guides on becoming an inclusive employer.

We also provide various services to support you on your path to becoming an inclusive employer. These include:

Interested in a service you don’t see on the site? Talk to the team about our bespoke Recruitment Packages.

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Last Updated: Wednesday March 13 2024
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