Provision of services and public functions
The Equality Act covers provision of services and facilities by businesses, authorities and other organisations, as well as exercise of public functions, such as the police. To be protected, the person usually needs to have a 'disability' as defined.
- Equality Act coverage of services and public functions is very wide.
- Provision of services can be covered whether they are free or paid.
- Public functions such as arrest or enforcement are also covered.
- If disputes cannot be settled, they can go to the County Court (or Employment Tribunal in the case of employment services).
Scope of the Equality Act
Part 3 of the Equality Act on services and public functions is very wide. It covers provision of goods, services and facilities by businesses or others to the public. It does not matter whether they are free or paid for - it will include a free helpline as much as it does buying goods in a shop. There are some limited exceptions from what is protected, most importantly regarding aircraft and ships.
'Public functions' which are not 'services' are also covered by the Equality Act. An example is being arrested and interrogated by the police.
The normal types of discrimination claim apply. Discrimination might include for example:
- putting the phone down on someone
- laughing at the way they speak
- inaccessible arrangements, for example telephone voice recognition systems.
See examples of Adjustments.
Television channel Setanta apologised to a football fan with cerebral palsy after a call centre worker laughed at his speech problems and then hung up.
'Fan gets apology from Setanta' (link to Manchester Evening News), 6/10/08.
Example: alternatives to the telephone
A company normally insists that an issue must be sorted out over the telephone. It may be a reasonable adjustment for it to be done in an alternative way, such as by email or a face-to-face conversation, if a communication disability makes phone calls difficult.
Who is liable.
A company or other organisation is generally liable for acts of its employees and agents. Employees and agents can also be personally liable. There is also potential liability for people who instruct, cause, induce or aid discrimination. More: Who is liable.
Resolving disputes informally will be the preferred option. It is though possible to take a case to court. This will normally be the County Court, or Sheriff Court in Scotland. See Disputes.