The Equality Act 2010 – Confusion for Employees

The human brain has a hundred billion neurons, each neuron connected to ten thousand other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe.

Michio Kaku, Theoretical Physicist


Is the fact that we experience the world through such a complex organ the reason we appear to make things so complicated?

Most people would agree that discrimination is wrong.  So, the Equality Act 2010 which makes it illegal to discriminate is a good thing.  If you suffer discrimination at work for example and it contravenes the Equality Act you can take your case to an Employment Tribunal.


It depends on

–      who is discriminating against you (the Act only covers employers, other employees or colleagues, employment agencies, someone for whom an employment agency arranges for you to work,

–      why you’re treated unfairly (it must be because of your age, disability, gender reassignment’ marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex,  sexual orientation),

–      how and why is the treatment you receive unfair?

You don’t have to have a contract of employment to be protected against discrimination under the Equality Act. If you’re employed under a contract personally to do work the Equality Act considers you to be an employee.


Let’s take an example of a young couple.  He works as a car valeter for a big car valeting company.  Although his contract says he is self-employed he is required to do the work himself.  Once, when a friend turned up to do the work for him, the site manager refused to let the friend work, saying that unauthorised people were not allowed on site even though his contract contains a substitution clause.

He wears the company uniform and hands over money paid to him by customers to the company and is paid an hourly rate. This is likely to be a contract to personally do work and he is covered by the Equality Act.


His wife works as a beauty consultant in a large department store selling products for a cosmetics firm.  She is self-employed and doesn’t have an employment contract with the store or the cosmetics firm.  The store takes some of the profits from her sales and manages the beauty department where she works.  She has the freedom to change her shifts or to get someone else to fill in for her if she can’t work. If she doesn’t work, she doesn’t get paid.  She doesn’t have a contract to personally do work and so is not protected under the Equality Act.

Confused?  Visit your local CAB or have a look at

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