Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation is already prohibited in relation to employment and vocational training. The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, which came into force on 30 April 2007, provide protection for individuals from discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods, facilities, services, education, the disposal and management of premises and the exercise of public functions.
Sexual orientation is defined as an individual’s sexual orientation towards people of the same sex, people of the opposite sex or people of both sexes. Protection therefore applies to everyone – lesbians, gay men, heterosexuals or bisexuals.
The Regulations prohibit direct and indirect discrimination and cover:
- victimisation – less favourable treatment of an individual because they have complained of discrimination under the Regulations;
- discriminatory advertisements – publishing an advertisement, or causing an advertisement to be published, which indicates an intention to discriminate unlawfully under the Regulations;
- instructions to discriminate – instructing someone to discriminate or causing them to discriminate unlawfully under the Regulations, for example by offering a financial inducement;
- discriminatory practices – adopting or maintaining a practice likely to result in unlawful discrimination under the Regulations; and
- validity of contracts – contractual terms that result from or would result in unlawful discrimination will be void.
Employers should note that for the purposes of the Regulations, anything done by someone in the course of their employment will be treated as done by the employer also, whether or not the employer knows about or approves of the act. In such circumstances an employer will have to prove that such steps as were ‘reasonably practicable’ were taken to prevent the employee from doing the act, or acts of that kind, in the course of his or her employment.
If you would like advice on any aspect of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, please contact us.