Changes to the Equality Act (2010): Amendments & Recommendations for 2024

The Equality Act was passed in the UK in 2010 to consolidate and simplify numerous separate laws which were related to discrimination, harassment and victimisation in the workplace based around nine protected characteristics: age, race, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.

At the time, it worked broadly in parallel with European law but since the UK left the EU, the British government has made some changes to the Act, which came into force at the beginning of 2024.

The amendments are in part to carry over the protections offered when the UK was part of the EU, however they are detailed differently and offer slightly alternative protections that will need to be taken into consideration by employers wishing to comply with the REUL (Retained EU Law). We outline the key changes below.

Five new amendments: how and why this has changed

  1. Discrimination in access to employment
  2. Discrimination related to pregnancy, maternity and breastfeeding
  3. Indirect discrimination by association
  4. The definition of disability
  5. Equal pay

Previous Equality Act 2010 vs amendments

Previous Equality Act 2020 vs 2024 amendment 1
Before: Stated that working practices which disadvantaged a person who is pregnant or on maternity leave is unlawful.
Now: Gives further protection for returning to work following maternity leave, and explicitly details that working practices and policies which disadvantage someone because they want to continue feeding their baby their own milk after returning to work is unlawful.

Previous Equality Act 2020 vs 2024 amendment 2
Before: People who did not have a protected characteristic were unable to legally claim that they were disadvantaged by discrimination.
Now: People who do not have a protected characteristic can now claim discrimination alongside another person who does have a protected characteristic if they feel disadvantaged by the same process/behaviour. (‘Indirect Discrimination: Same disadvantage’)

Previous Equality Act 2020 vs 2024 amendment 3
Before: Employers were legally obliged to ensure that recruitment practices when searching for candidates for current vacant roles were not discriminatory.
Now: Claims can be brought against employers for discriminatory recruitment practices – even when there isn’t a live vacancy.

Previous Equality Act 2020 vs 2024 amendment 4
Before: Measures to ensure equal pay could include comparisons to mean and median averages.
Now: Changes to the law on equal pay now require a comparison to be made to an actual person rather than mean/median pay averages.

Previous Equality Act 2020 vs 2024 amendment 5
Before: The definition of a person with a disability was based on ability to carry out day-to-day tasks and responsibilities.
Now: The definition of disability in the workplace has changed to give additional recognition of non-every-day tasks such as interviews/AGMs/social events.

Old definition: “A person with a physical or mental impairment, where that impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”

New definition: “People experiencing limitations related to “physical, mental or psychological impairments”, which “hinder the full and effective participation of the person concerned in professional life on an equal basis with other workers”.

Implications for organisations
While the changes are relatively small and nuanced, organisations should review how they impact their employees and ensure their policies reflect the Equality Act amendments.

Here are the steps recommended by inclusion in for employers wishing to comply and demonstrate best practice:

  • Review policies: Specifically for adjustments and any examples for employees working with a mental or physical impairment, and ‘Return to Work’ guidance for employees returning to work after having a baby. (There are a number of ways to make this policy gender neutral for which we can provide guidance.)
  • Review line manager guidance: People managers and leaders need to be fully aware of the changes and this is a great opportunity to signpost them to the amended policies and their responsibility to uphold good practice.
  • Train senior people: Leaders and managers may need further guidance and understanding on why these changes have been made and implications for the business.
  • Prepare: The Worker Protection (Amendment of the Equality Act 2010) Act 2023 will come into force in October 2024. At that point there will additionally be a duty on employers to take ‘reasonable steps’ to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and make working life ‘safer for all staff’.
  • Communicate: Employees at all levels need to be made aware of the changes to their rights and to the changes made to company policy.