General principles of equality law
The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination in employment or in the provision of training and education on the grounds of any of the following protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.
Staff and students are protected in all aspects of the employment, education and/or training relationship, which includes: recruitment and selection, employment terms and conditions, promotion, transfers, access to benefits, appraisal/annual review, assessment of performance, dismissal and post-termination (such as providing references).
Discrimination can occur in several different ways, as follows:
This is where one individual is treated less favourably than another, and the less favourable treatment is because of a protected characteristic they have, or are thought to have (see perception discrimination), or because they associate with someone who has a protected characteristic.
This is where a provision, criterion or practice applies equally to everyone but has, or would have, a disproportionate impact on those people who share a protected characteristic (e.g. it is more difficult for someone to comply with a requirement because of their religion or belief).
Discrimination by association
This is direct discrimination against an individual because they associate with another person who possesses a protected characteristic.
This is direct discrimination against an individual where the person is treated less favourably than another, and the less favourable treatment is because others think they possess a protected characteristic. It applies even if the person does not actually possess that characteristic.
This is defined as unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic which has the purpose or effect of either: (a) violating another person's dignity; or (b) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that other person.
Third party harassment
The Equality Act introduced the possibility of employers being potentially liable for harassment of their employees by third parties who are not employees of Christ Church, e.g. suppliers. There are a number of criteria that establish whether or not an employer is liable.
This occurs where an individual is subjected to less favourable treatment by reason of the fact that s/he has done a "protected act" under the discrimination legislation – e.g. someone has made a complaint about discrimination on grounds of their age or sex, or helped somebody else to do so, and they are now being treated less favourably by their manager.
Christ Church may take positive action in respect of access to facilities and training for specific groups who are under-represented. It would be reasonable to take action to increase applications for posts or study from a particular group of people, or provide work experience, outreach days or training programmes only for those people. These actions increase the numbers of eligible people by developing relevant skills and increasing applications from under-represented groups.
However, positive action is not the same as positive discrimination (which is prohibited), and the selection for admission to study or appointment to posts must therefore be made solely on the basis of merit.
Genuine Occupational Requirements
There are limited exemptions from liability in all the discrimination legislation. Thus where the sex, race, age, sexual orientation or religion or belief of an employee is required for the specific job he or she is required to do, that characteristic may amount to a genuine occupational requirement (GOR).
There must be a clear connection between the duties of the post in question and the characteristics required. An example might be the need to recruit a person from a particular racial group to act in a role written for a character from that racial group; or a person with a particular religion in the case of certain defined posts with the Cathedral.
However, GORs are usually difficult to establish and departments wishing to establish a GOR should discuss this with the Steward, Senior Censor or Sub-Dean (for the Cathedral) before advertising the post.
Public sector equality duty
As part of the Equality Act Christ Church has a public sector equality duty which came into force in April 2011. Under the duty Christ Church must have due regard to the need to:
eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Equality Act;
advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not; and
foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.