The Equality Act 2010 was brought in by the Labour Government (2005-2010) to replace previous legislation relating to equality, discrimination and harassment (including the Equal Pay Act 1970, Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995) by harmonising and reforming it.

The act covered the following nine ‘protected characteristics’: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnerships, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation. The act covers England, Scotland and Wales. In Northern Ireland an equivalent of the Equality Act 2010 has not been implemented, but equality strands had previously had been brought together under the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

The Equality Act received Royal Assent on 8 April 2010. Shortly afterwards a general election was held on 6 May. The Labour Party lost its majority and a Conservative/Liberal Democrat collation government was formed under Prime Minister David Cameron and deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

The following elements of the Equality Act 2010 (as enacted) were not brought into force following the change of government:

  • The original act had introduced the concept of ‘dual discrimination’ (s. 14), as involving ‘a combination of two relevant protected characteristics’ (s. 14).
  • The original act had introduced a public sector duty regarding ‘socio-economic inequalities’ (s. 1), stating strategic decisions should be ‘designed to reduce the inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage’.

Employers’ liability for third party harassment was incorporated into the Equality Act 2010 as enacted  (section 40(2)-(4)). However, these sections were repealed by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2012 which sought to reduce ‘legislative burdens’ on employers.