The Equality Act 2017 (the “Act”), which received Royal Assent on 18 July 2017, deals with discrimination comprehensively and in respect of both employment and the provision of goods and services on the grounds of:
- gender reassignment;
- marriage and civil partnership;
- pregnancy and maternity;
- religion or belief;
- sex; and
- sexual orientation.
known as the “protected characteristics”.
The Act replaces previous legislation in the areas of sex discrimination and race relations and provides new, more extensive, rights on grounds not formerly benefiting from specific protection. The Act is based on the UK Equality Act 2010, although there are some differences in procedure and remedies.
Whilst a majority of the provisions under the Act came into effect from 1 January 2019, the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of disability and age – as well as the extension of equal pay rights to cover work of equal value – did not come into operation until 1 January 2020. The Act is now in full force and effect.
The Act aims to provide equality of opportunity and makes it unlawful to discriminate, harass or victimise a person in employment or as a user of private and public services. It also creates positive obligations on employers to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees where their disability places them at a disadvantage in the workplace.
Since the Act came into operation, there have been very few judgments issued by the Employment and Equality Tribunal (the “Tribunal”) dealing with discrimination against an employee on the basis of a protected characteristic. This does not necessarily mean that discrimination is rare in the Isle of Man, but rather reflects that not many discrimination cases have progressed to a substantive hearing in the Tribunal. Partly, this could be because the legislation is still relatively new and/or because parties are reluctant to be “test” cases with the resulting publicity this would be expected to attract.
Even though there is not a substantial “body” of Isle of Man case law applying the Act in practice, given the equivalence of our legislation with the UK we can look both to the UK and other jurisdictions with comparable laws for developments in this area. For instance, even though the Channel Islands have not adopted identical legislation, where the approach or principles do align, the case law from their tribunals and courts can be relevant.
Cains has prepared a series of bite-sized articles looking at the protected characteristics and the prohibited “discriminatory acts” by way of a high-level overview. These include (where applicable) reference to recent decisions of UK tribunals and courts plus those of other relevant jurisdictions for insights into how the law has been interpreted and applied. The next article in our series will consider the forms discrimination can take and extent of the legal protections within the Act.
If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our Employment Team.
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The guidance in this note is for information purposes only and is not intended to be exhaustive. It is not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice, and should not be relied on or treated as a substitute for specific advice relevant to particular circumstances. Cains only advises on the laws of the Isle of Man and accepts no responsibility for any errors, omissions or misleading statements or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information in this note.