'An Act to make provision to require Ministers of the Crown and others when making strategic decisions about the exercise of their functions to have regard to the desirability of reducing socio-economic inequalities; to reform and harmonise equality law and restate the greater part of the enactments relating to discrimination and harassment related to certain personal characteristics; to enable certain employers to be required to publish information about the differences in pay between male and female employees; to prohibit victimisation in certain circumstances; to require the exercise of certain functions to be with regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and other prohibited conduct; to enable duties to be imposed in relation to the exercise of public procurement functions; to increase equality of opportunity; to amend the law relating to rights and responsibilities in family relationships; and for connected purposes.'
The Equality Act was introduced on 1 October 2010. It gives legal protection from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society, consolidating three previous duties covering race, disability and gender, bringing them together into a single duty, and extending it to cover the ‘protected characteristics’ of age, sexual orientation, religion or belief, pregnancy and maternity, and gender reassignment.
Legislation consolidated into the Equality Act includes:
- The Equal Pay Act.
- The Sex Discrimination Act.
- The Race Relations Act.
- The Disability Discrimination Act.
- The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations.
- The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations.
- The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations.
The Equality Act provides protection against direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation for:
- Being or becoming a transsexual person.
- Being married or in a civil partnership.
- Being pregnant or having a child.
- Race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin.
- Religion, belief or lack of religion/belief.
- Sexual orientation.
- People associated with someone who has a protected characteristic, eg a family member or friend.
- People that have complained about discrimination or supported someone else’s claim.
The Act provides protection
- At work.
- In education.
- As a consumer.
- When using public services.
- When buying or renting property.
- As a member or guest of a private club or association.
Whilst the accessible design of buildings is regulated by the Building Regulations Part M: Access to and use of buildings, the Equality Act does require "reasonable adjustments" to be made when providing access to goods, facilities, services and premises. The duty to make reasonable adjustments is set out in paragraph 2 of both Schedule 2 (in relation to public authorities and service providers); Schedule 8 (in relation to employers) and Schedule 15 (in relation to associations).
The relationship between the Act and the Building Regulations is set out in CLG Divisional circular letter about the Building Regulations 2010: Equality Act clarification (9 December 2011) which states:
‘Part M sets out minimum requirements to ensure that a broad range of people are able to access and use facilities within buildings. The Equality Act 2010 brings together and replaces existing equalities legislation including the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA). The Equality Act requires reasonable adjustments to be made in relation to accessibility. In practice, this means that due regard must be given to any specific needs of likely building users that might be reasonably met. Compliance with the requirements of Part M does not therefore signify compliance with the much broader obligations and duties set out in the Equality Act. This is a source of frequent misunderstanding.’
The Act requires public bodies to promote equality and allows the Government to set minimum standards so that people can use public services more easily.
In addition, Under Section 149, planning authorities, through the execution of their functions, have a duty to have regard to the need to:
- Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation.
- Advance equality of opportunity.
- Foster good relations between communities.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Accessibility in the built environment.
- Access audit.
- Access consultant.
- Access and inclusion in the built environment: policy and guidance.
- Approved documents.
- Approved document M.
- Building Regulations.
- Changing lifestyles.
- Disabled access lifts.
- Equal opportunities policy.
- Inclusive design.
- Lifetime homes.
- Lifetime neighbourhoods.
- Older people.
 External references
- The act in full.
- CLG Divisional circular letter about the Building Regulations 2010: Equality Act clarification (9 December 2011)
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