It has been 2 years since the Equality Act 2010 received Royal Assent, so the question is has it made a difference to equality and people pursuing their rights? It’s true that the legislation behind discrimination law desperately needed to be overhauled – we had differing levels of protection for different areas of equality, and there is no doubt that the Equality Act 2010 is a much simpler and streamlined piece of law. But I still think there is a real job of work to be done for people to understand their rights and be encouraged to take forward cases. Whilst the Equality Act 2010 is better drafted, it doesn’t change the fact that the law and process to pursue your rights in this area is still complex. Although you can take a claim yourself, it is a difficult road – generally employers are better resourced and frighten clients into submission, often pushing them to settle cases for much less than they are worth by threats of costs against them. This is the real problem as far as we are concerned is putting claimants on an equal footing – enabling them to seek advice and support from specialists that know the law, that know the system they are operating within. That’s why our service is so important – helping claimants through the minefield of discrimination law and the tribunal or court process. We are however still not seeing the numbers we expected under certain equality areas, such as age and sexuality – I think that’s a combination of people still not being aware of their rights and the fact that people are struggling to find accessible advice. So if you know someone who needs advice at all around equality – let them know we’re here! We can advise people anywhere in England and Wales and there are no charges unless we secure a successful outcome, so they have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Shantele Janes, CHAWREC Director