The Employment Equality Regulations 2003

What are they?

There are two sets of regulations: The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 and the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.

What do they outlaw?

Discrimination in employment and vocational training on the grounds of sexual orientation and religion or belief.

They cover:

  • Direct discrimination - i.e. treating people less favourably than others purely on the grounds of sexual orientation or religion/belief
  • Indirect discrimination - that is, unjustifiably applying a provision, criterion or practice which disadvantages people on these grounds
  • Harassment - unwanted conduct that violates people's dignity or creates an 'intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive' environment
  • Victimisation - treating people less favourably because of something they have done in connection with the regulations, e.g. made a formal complaint of discrimination.

How do the regulations apply?

The regulations make it unlawful to discriminate on these grounds throughout the employment relationship and, in some circumstances, after the employment has finished.

They cover discrimination on grounds of perceived as well as actual sexual orientation or religion/belief (e.g. assuming - correctly or incorrectly - that someone is homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual) and also association, e.g. being discriminated against on grounds of the sexual orientation of your friends or family.

The Religion or Belief regulations only apply to 'beliefs' that are 'akin' to a religion or similar philosophical belief, not, for example, being a supporter of a particular political party.

Action to take

You should draft, publicise and enforce clear policies on all forms of discrimination. It may be worth conducting a review in order to check that your policies are up-to-date, and taking professional advice.

More information on The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 and The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 can be found here.