As the new Equality Act comes into force today (October 1st), many employment lawyers and professional insurance experts are predicting that this will mean a huge rise in employment tribunal cases over discrimination issues.
The Equality Act is intended to harmonise all existing employment laws on the subject of discrimination, specifying areas such as race, age, sexuality, gender etc. The newest addition to this list is health, as employers are no longer allowed to ask about periods of sickness absence or other health-related questions at the application stage of recruitment.
The Act also lifts the ‘gagging order’ on discussing and comparing rates of pay often imposed on employees by companies.
All of these changes could mean a huge rise in the number of discrimination cases brought by disgruntled former employees at tribunal, potentially costing employers thousands of pounds in compensation payouts and legal costs. Furthermore, it is not even certain whether employment tribunals will know how to interpret the Equality Act, leaving the outcome of cases uncertain.
This is why, now more than ever, it is important for businesses to take out some form of professional insurance, such as commercial legal expenses cover.