sexual orientation or religion come into force this week. The Sexual
Orientation regulations become law in Great Britain today, 1 December
and the Religion or Belief regulations tomorrow, 2 December.
Jacqui Smith, deputy minister for women and equality said:
'We have long had laws to prevent discrimination in the workplace
against women and on grounds of race - these new measures bring about
much wider equality.
'For the very first time we are making discrimination unlawful on
grounds of sexual orientation, religion or belief in workplaces in
England, Scotland and Wales.
'Unfair discrimination in employment must not be tolerated. People
should not be denied jobs, suffer victimisation or harassment,
because of prejudice.
'It is also damaging for business as they deny themselves access to
the widest pool of talent. A diverse workforce brings benefits - such
as increased motivation, lower turnover of staff, and access to wider
'This new legislation will establish minimum requirements in law so
that people can no longer be denied jobs because of prejudice; so
that harassment can be tackled promptly and effectively; and so that
people have an equal chance of training and promotion, whatever their
1. The Regulations implement strands of the European Employment
Directive (Council Directive 2000/78/EC). The Employment Directive
outlaws discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, religion or
belief, disability and age in employment and vocational training.
Amendments to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 implementing the
Directive will come into force in October 2004 and new legislation
outlawing discrimination on grounds of age by the end of 2006.
2. They apply to all employers/businesses whatever their size and
whether in the public or private sector (including the police). They
apply to recruitment, terms and conditions, pay, promotion, transfers
3. The Regulations apply across Great Britain (England, Scotland and
Wales). Legislation outlawing discrimination on grounds of religion
or belief has been in existence in Northern Ireland already. Separate
Regulations outlawing discrimination on grounds of sexual
orientations are being introduced in Northern Ireland.
4. The Regulations apply throughout the employment/vocational
training relationship - during the recruitment process, in the
workplace/training place, on dismissal and, in certain circumstances,
after the employment/vocational training has finished
5. DTI have been working with key stakeholders to raise awareness of
the new legislation. Acas have produced practical workplace guidance
which offers good practice advice, including possible scenarios and
frequently asked questions. The Acas guidance has been produced
following very extensive consultation with the lesbian, gay and
bisexual (LGB) community through representative groups and the
different faith, belief and secular groups. A wide range of bodies
concerned with employment issues, including the TUC and CBI, have
also been consulted. Acas also runs workshops on the new legislation
to help organisations of all sizes make sure their current policies
and practices are fit for purpose
6. Acas good practice guidance can be downloaded from their website
(www.acas.org.uk). Acas operates a telephone helpline (tel: 08457 47
47 47, textphone: 08456 06 16 00) which provides information and
advice across a wide range of employment issues. It also runs an
advice line for employers - Equality Direct: tel: 0845 600 3444,
textphone 08456 06 16 00) offering good practice guidance on fairness
in the workplace.
7. The DTI website has a number of pages dedicated to equality on the
grounds of sexual orientation and religion or belief, including a
plain explanation t he new legislation