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The Equality Act 2010: What it means for clubs

The Equality Act 2010 came into force on 1 October 2010 and brings together, harmonises and in some respects extends previous equality law. As a private club or other association admitting members and providing benefits, facilities and services, your responsibilities remain largely the same, but there are some differences that you need to be aware of.

The main change is that the Act builds on the previous obligations on associations not to discriminate because of disability, race and sexual orientation by extending the ban on discrimination to also cover gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, religion or belief and sex.

The Act defines an association as an organisation that:

  • has 25 or more members, and
  • has rules (not necessarily formal or written) regulating who can be a member and there is a genuine selection process for members

The Act protects people from discrimination on the basis of ‘protected characteristics’.

The relevant characteristics for private clubs and other associations are:

  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race – this includes ethnic or national origins, colour and nationality
  • religion or belief – this includes lack of belief
  • sex, and
  • sexual orientation

It is now unlawful for a private club or other association with 25 or more members to discriminate against, harass or victimise an existing or potential member. A club cannot refuse membership, or grant membership on less favourable terms (such as by applying different conditions or fees) because the person has a protected characteristic.

Previous legislation outlawed discrimination by associations against existing or potential members because of race, disability and sexual orientation. The 2010 Act extended this protection to gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, religion or belief and sex.