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To equality and beyond…

10th December 2010

For anyone who may have missed
it, the Equality Act finally came
into force on 1st October 2010.

The Act for the most part restates the existing legal position as we know it and is not likely to involve dramatic practical changes in practice for most employers.
The long awaited legislation brings together a number of aspects of the law relating to discrimination issues, extends some existing provisions and creates some new ones. Acas, the conciliation service, have published a helpful booklet on the matter with a very useful chart detailing the existing and new provisions - view the chart.

It has already been identified that there may be some ambiguity in the drafting of section 147 of the Equality Act which may impact on the enforceability of compromise agreements signed after 1st October 2010.

The Law Society has commented:
The Law Society is aware that there is some ambiguity in the drafting of section 147 of the Equality Act which is likely to have an effect on the use and effectiveness of compromise agreements made under the Act,” said a statement from the body. “The way this section is currently drafted suggests that a solicitor who was instructed by the employee prior to the production of the final agreement for consideration will be precluded from acting any further.
An urgent review of the section is currently being undertaken and the outcome will be posted as soon as it is available.

The organisation largely responsible for the implementation of the Equality Act, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is itself facing a potential reduction in size.  As part of the government strategy to reduce overheads and impose tighter budgetary control, there are reports of the need to “substantially streamline” the organisation.

Whilst core functions will be retained there may be a need to for other functions to pass to other departments or the private sector. The final outcome is awaited after a period of consultation.

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