The 6th February 2018 marked exactly 100 years since some women were granted the right to vote in the UK for the first time. The ironically titled Representation of the People Act 1918 allowed women over the age of 30, who also met a property qualification, to vote. This was roughly 40% of all women in the UK.
At the same time, the Act removed any restrictions on men voting. This meant that all men over the age of 21 could vote. So, hardly representative, but nevertheless this step is being celebrated throughout the UK as the first one in the right direction. It was a further 10 years until women achieved equal voting rights to men.
The History of Equality
Later in 1918, women were permitted to stand for election in the Houses of Parliament and we saw the start of women MPs. In 1919, women were finally (after a long legal battle) allowed to qualify as solicitors. The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 then, rather than introduce this as right, removed the restriction against it.
It is the legal system that is key to progress and change whenever there is an unfairness. Acts of Parliament come into effect following a challenge by individuals against the status quo of the time.
This leads to bills being presented in Parliament, both to the House of Commons and then to the House of Lords, and finally, they become statute. Challenging the wording of statutes is the work of lawyers, either because the provisions of that statute are being broken or because the social landscape has changed, making the existing statutes unfair.
Equality and Diversity Today
We are all aware that there are various challenges currently taking place in 2018, where it is alleged that women are being paid less than men for the same job. Yet the Equal Pay Act was introduced in 1970!
The Sex Discrimination Act in 1975 rendered it unlawful for certain kinds of sex discrimination and discrimination on the ground of marriage. It established a Commission with the function of working towards the elimination of such discrimination and promoting equal opportunity between men and women generally.
These Acts were subsequently merged with the Equality Act of 2010 that covered a wider breadth of discrimination, in order to strive for altogether greater equality.
We may wonder therefore how it is possible that the current claims for equal pay could possibly exist. The very fact that they do provides some insight as to the scale of discrimination, as well as the potential for improvement towards fairer working environments.
It can be scary to consider that you may challenge a status quo in the workplace (or any other environment), or that you are an employer who has not kept up to date with changes. If you find yourself in either of these situations, please seek advice. At Giles Wilson, we treat every enquiry confidentially and with understanding.
The Equality Act
The Equality Act 2010 additionally makes it unlawful to discriminate against employees (including workers) because of a mental or physical disability. This encompassed the previous Disability Discrimination Act 1995.
This was an Act that made it unlawful to discriminate against disabled persons in connection with employment, the provision of goods, facilities and services, and the disposal or management of premises. It also made provisions about the employment of disabled persons and to establish a National Disability Council.
The Equality Act 2010 brings together over 116 separate pieces of legislation into one single Act. Combined, it provides a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all.
Discrimination and the Law in 2018
In this short article, I have tried to provide some examples of the great detailed journey of pursuing equality that we have all travelled (and continue to travel). But, in short, it is against the law to discriminate against anyone because of:
- being or becoming a transsexual person
- being married or in a civil partnership
- being pregnant or on maternity leave
- race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
- religion, belief or lack of religion/belief
- sexual orientation
Equality and Diversity at Giles Wilson
At Giles Wilson, we put Equality and Diversity at the top of our agenda. We are happy to provide dedicated legal advice if you have been discriminated against. Equally, we are able to advise those who seek to develop a fairer environment around them. For more information about our services, visit our website.
If you would like to discuss an issue surrounding equality and discrimination, contact us 01702 477106 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We also keep our clients regularly updated with the latest legal updates and advice through Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.