Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Improving the equality of life

New regulations for employment equality and sex discrimination came into force on 1 October.

The definition of sexual harassment remains the same: unwanted conduct of a sexual nature - verbal, non-verbal or physical - which violates the dignity of a person or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for a person.

Following are the key provisions of the new regulations:

  • There is a revised definition of what constitutes indirect discrimination. For instance, it is no longer necessary to prove that a provision, criterion or practice disproportionately affects more women than men.

  • There is a revised definition of what constitutes discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity.

  • Sexual harassment becomes part of the sex discrimination regulations regardless of whether a person objects to it or submits to it. It applies within employment and to those who apply for employment. It applies to men, women and those undergoing reassignment of gender. It applies to contract workers as well as to regular employees.

  • The standard of proof of harassment at employment tribunal and in county court is the same as for discrimination cases.

  • Some areas where discrimination was lawful or was practised have been cleared up (eg benefits paid by trades unions).

  • Exceptions to the sex discrimination laws (eg PE courses and cadet forces) are removed.

  • Pay and conditions are to be adjusted for women who are on maternity leave on the same basis as if they were not.

  • An employer must respond to requests for information under the discrimination provisions in eight weeks.

Members should note that it is the duty of an employer to prevent sexual harassment. It is also seen as a serious breach of professional conduct by the GTC.

For more information on the new regulations, visit the Equal Opportunities Commission website at www.eoc.org.uk/default.aspx?page=15376

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