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Equality Act becomes law

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Parts of the new Equality Act have come into force offering extra protection against discrimination in the workplace.

Some aspects of the legislation introduced by the previous government became active on October 1, although other sections are still being considered by the coalition government.

Changes now in force include restrictions on pre-employment health questionnaires and the extension of ‘third party harassment’ - where an employer must take “reasonable steps” to protect staff from harassment - from sexual and sex-related harassment only to also cover age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation.

The act’s public sector duty, which will replace the existing duties for race, disability and gender with a single one covering all the protected characteristics above, is not due to come into force until April 2011.

The government has still not indicated whether it will implement clauses that it opposed when it was in opposition, such as the use of positive action in recruitment, combined discrimination and the socio-economic duty on public authorities.

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