Posted on 28th September 2010

New Act Brings Sex Health Discrimination into Focus

Nick Poole, Partner at Latimer Hinks
Employers who quiz job candidates on their health, or pay staff less based upon their sex, could fall foul of legislations which comes into force next week, warn Latimer Hinks solicitors.

The Equality Act 2010, part of which comes into force on October 1, will from that date seek to harmonise discrimination law across the variety of its different strands. In alphabetical order, we have age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnerships, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

However, employers should now familiarise themselves with new elements to the legislation, including the banning of pre-employment health questionnaires, warns Nick Poole, lawyer at Latimer Hinks solicitors, one of Darlington and County Durhams longest established law firms.

He said: "Questions about job candidates health are being banned with the Equality Act 2010, with the exception of those relating to such things as the ability to carry out a required function of the role. This part of the legislation also covers health-based questions in job applications or pre-employment references, and referral of candidates to occupational health. Ignoring this change will render employers liable to discrimination claims from unsuccessful candidates, so real care must be taken.

"There is also a part of the Act which relates to equal pay. This alters existing law further in the favour of employees who feel they have been discriminated against. An employee currently needs to be able to highlight a comparator of the opposite sex to be able to claim they are being paid less for equal work on the grounds of gender. From October 1, if no actual comparator exists, the employee can create a hypothetical comparator, or highlight a successor to a post.

"Secrecy clauses, or similar action to stop employees from discussing their own pay with colleagues, should they believe there to be discrimination, will also be banned under the Act.