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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Operational Guidance

Our Conduct and Behaviour: The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 brings together a number of existing laws, including Human Rights legislation. It gathers these into one place to create a single approach to equality, protecting all citizens against discrimination. This includes both HMRC’s employees and customers.

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination against people who have the protected characteristics that are specified in section 4 of the Act. Disability is one of these specified protected characteristics.

A person has a disability for the purposes of the Act if he or she has a physical or mental impairment and the impairment has a substantial and long term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day to day activities.

Protection from discrimination applies to disabled people in a range of circumstances, covering the provision of goods, facilities and services, the exercise of public functions, premises, work, education and clubs and associations. Only those people who are defined as disabled in accordance with section 6 of the Act and the associated schedules and regulations, are entitled to the protection that the Act provides. However, we will always do our best to accommodate vulnerable people even if they do not fall within the definition.

HMRC is affected by the Act in a number of ways. The overall effect is that we must not directly or indirectly discriminate against a person by having rules or policies that apply to everyone but disadvantage a person with a protected characteristic such as mental impairment.

The public sector Equality Duty at section 149 of the Equality Act has three aims. It requires public bodies to have due regard of the need to

  • eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct prohibited by the Act
  • advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it, and
  • foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it.

It encourages public bodies to understand how different people will be affected by their activities, so that their policies and services are appropriate and accessible to all and meet different people’s requirements.

The Equality Duty explicitly recognises that disabled people’s requirements may be different from those of non-disabled people. Public bodies should therefore take account of disabled people’s impairments when making decisions about policies and processes. This might mean making reasonable adjustments so that disabled people are not treated less favourably than non-disabled people in order to meet their requirements.

Northern Ireland has similar legislation, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. The guidance at COG11300+ should be followed as if Northern Ireland was covered by the Equality Act 2010.