This section of the site summarises some proposed or likely changes to the disability discrimination law. The proposed changes do not necessarily apply to Northern Ireland.
Retained EU Law Act
This Act, mostly not yet in force, will alter the position of EU law in Britain. It creates uncertainty, and may well reduce Equality Act protection in some areas, particularly from 1st January 2024. However regulations will preserve some areas of EU case law, retaining a wider meaning of disability, and allowing indirect discrimination by association. More: Retained EU law Act 2023.
Changes to third-party harassment
A Bill before Parliament would make it easier for workers to claim for harassment by customers or clients under the Equality Act. The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill is a private member’s bill but supported by the government. More Changes to third-party harassment.
Sexual harassment: government response, 2021
In July 2021 the government issued its Consultation on sexual harassment in the workplace: government response (gov.uk):
- The government says (in section 4.4) that it will “look closely” at extending the time limit for all Equality Act cases to six months. At the moment, for employment tribunal claims the basic time limit is three months (less one day).
- In the context of sexual harassment, the government says (section 4.2) that “when parliamentary time allows” it will re-introduce some form of workplace protection against third-party harassment, eg harassment by customers and suppliers. It is not clear whether this might extend to disability harassment.
- In section 4.3 the government discusses Equality Act coverage of volunteers and interns.
No longer a future change of course. From 1st January 2021 the British parliament is entitled to amend the Equality Act without regard to EU law, though subject to the UK-EU Trade Agreement.
So far as the Equality Act is not amended, UK courts should normally (though not always) continue to interpret the Act in line with EU Court decisions made before the end of 2020. Until the end of 2020 the UK remained largely bound by EU law.
Disability workforce reporting
In December 2021 the government launched a consultation on whether disability workforce reporting – eg publishing what proportion of their workforce is disabled – should be mandatory for large employers, ie those with at least 250 employees. The consultation also includes practical issues such as people who have a disability within the EqA but who do not identify as disabled or do not feel comfortable disclosing the information. See Disability workforce reporting (gov.uk).
Following the Matthew Taylor review of modern working practices, the government’s Good Work Plan of December 2018 discussed proposals to clarify and probably extend the types of worker covered by the Equality Act.
This is especially important with the growth of the gig economy and ‘zero hours’ contracts.
Changes on enforcing the Equality Act have been proposed in various reports. Two were in 2019, by the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee and, on legal aid, by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. See Enforcement of Equality Act: proposals.
Bill of Rights Bill: withdrawn
Alex Chalk, the Justice Secretary, announced in June 2023 that the government is not proceeding with the Bill of Rights Bill.