Update on Equality Act and flexible working

Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Government has made the following announcements this month (March 2011) about implementation of the Equality Act and the right to request flexible working:

Equality Act:

  • On 17 March the Government confirmed that the public sector Equality Duty will come into force as planned on 5 April 2011, and published a policy review paper proposing new specific duties to support the general duty. Comments on the new draft regulations are invited by the Government Equalities Office until 21 April 2011. Further information can be found on the GEO website here.
  • On 3 March Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone announced the start of a consultation on the age discrimination ban provision in the Equality Act. The consultation ‘Equality Act 2010: Banning age discrimination in services, public functions and associations - A consultation on proposed exceptions to the ban’ sets out those areas where the Government believes that different treatment of people of various ages is justified; and proposes how the legislation will be drafted to take account of these. Further information can be found on the Government Equalities Office website here.
  • The Government has also recently announced that the ‘dual discrimination’ provisions in the 2010 Equality Act will not be implemented. The concept of dual discrimination is where an individual is less favourably treated because of a combination of two protected characteristics. The provisions would have allowed dual discrimination claims to be brought in relation to direct discrimination.

The Budget also contains a promise that the Government will consult on the repeal of the provisions Act relating to third-party harassment, which only came into force on 1 October 2010. The legislation allows employers to be found liable for harassment of an employee in the course of his or her employment, based on any of the protected characteristics (other than marriage and civil partnership, and pregnancy and maternity), by third parties such as clients or customers.

Right to request flexible working:

  • Statement from the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (18 March 2011): “The Government is committed to extending the right to request flexible working to all employees in due course, as set out in the Coalition Agreement. The aim behind delaying the extension of flexible working is to allow businesses breathing space in the current economic climate. Flexible working is currently available for parents with children 16 and under and carers”
  •  The Government has announced “When we consult on extending the right-to-request legislation to all employees, we will also consult on whether there should be an exemption for micro-businesses” Edward Davey (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs), Business, Innovation and Skills; 22 March 2011)
  • The Government has announced that the right to request flexible working for parents of 17 yr olds, due to come into force this April, will be halted.