Share

Many charities may be in breach of new equality law

Many charities may be in breach of new equality law
News

Many charities may be in breach of new equality law1

Governance | Tania Mason | 21 Apr 2010

A large number of charities who provide services to a limited subsection of the public may find themselves in breach of anti-discrimination legislation once the Equality Act becomes law in October, a group of charity lawyers has warned.

The lawyers, who are members of the Charity Law Association working party, gave the warning in their response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission consultation on the Equality Act 2010 statutory guidance.

They said that once the Act becomes law, charities will need to identify and provide evidence of “a disadvantage or a legitimate aim that the restriction on their beneficiary class addresses, or risk challenge under the Act”.

They said the Charity Commission must urgently create guidance to help charities apply the exemptions in the new Act that allow them to provide benefits to certain members of the public and not others. Otherwise, the regulator could be flooded with enquiries and potentially unnecessary applications to amend charities’ objects.

“Even worse, many charities may not realise they are potentially breaching the law until a claim is brought, leading to significant costs and potentially damage to the reputation of the charity and the sector,” the lawyers wrote.

Charitable instrument exemption

The new Equality Act consolidates and replaces a number of previous anti-discrimination laws such as the Race Relations act, the Sex Discrimination Act and the Disability Discrimination Act.

Previously, charities relied on “charitable instrument exemptions” within these Acts to allow them to positively discriminate in order to fulfil their charitable objects or the terms of a restricted donation.  These exemptions allowed them to provide services to people of certain specified characteristics, such as education to children of a particular ethnicity or health services to people of a particular sexual orientation, without breaching anti-discrimination law.

However, a ruling by Mr Justice Briggs in the recent High Court Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) case suggests that the charitable exemption can only apply if it meets an additional restriction contained in European human rights legislation. Effectively, charities relying on the exemption must be able to prove that the benefits they provide to their beneficiaries must either be “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”, or “for the purpose of preventing or compensating for a disadvantage linked to the protected characteristic”.

Not tested in UK courts

The lawyers said that this point has not previously been tested in UK courts or brought to the attention of English charities. Therefore, both those charities that have been careful to ensure their activities meet the exemptions under the old laws, as well as those that have not necessarily considered the impact of non-discrimination legislation in the past, could find that their objects are unacceptable once the Act comes into force.  “These charities will need clear guidance to make them aware of the Act and its potential impact on their objects,” the lawyers said.

The types of charities that could be affected include religious groups, organisations for immigrants, charities that work with older people, and groups that promote sports to particular nationalities.

The lawyers also said that the Act would affect grantmaking charities, “which will need to be confident that projects or charities that they propose to fund do not discriminate”.

The lawyers said it was becoming clear to them, as practitioners, that charities are concerned about the potential effect the Act may have on their operations. “Others have simply not considered the issue as relevant and may be proceeding in the misguided view that they will be protected by exemptions in the Act.

“There are concerns that an inability to comply with the wishes of donors who would like to place restrictions on the use of their gifts may lead to a drop in funding for some charities.”

MAWS
trustee treasurer
novanew
27 Apr 2010

Where one obtains funding which are effectively from EU organisations which are based on meeting a particular social group's needs will this also fall foul of these new laws?

Comments

[Cancel] | Reply to:

Close »

Community Standards

The civilsociety.co.uk community and comments board is intended as a platform for informed and civilised debate.

We hope to encourage a broad range of views, however, there are standards that we expect commentators to uphold. We reserve the right to delete or amend any comments that do not adhere to these standards.

We welcome:

  • Robust but respectful debate
  • Strongly held opinions
  • Intelligent relevant discussion
  • The sharing of relevant experiences
  • New participants

We will not publish:

  • Rude, threatening, offensive, obscene or abusive language, or links to such material
  • Links to commercial organisations or spam postings. The comments board is not an advertising platform
  • The posting of contact details for yourself or others
  • Comments intended for malicious purpose or mindless abuse
  • Comments purporting to be from another person or organisation under false pretences
  • Gratuitous criticism, commentary or self-promotion
  • Any material which breaches copyright or privacy laws, or could be considered libellous
  • The use of the comments board for the pursuit or extension of personal disputes

Be aware:

  • Views expressed on the comments board are left at users’ discretion and are in no way views held or supported by Civil Society Media
  • Comments left by others may not be accurate, do not rely on them as fact
  • You may be misunderstood - sarcasm and humour can easily be taken out of context, try to be clear

Please:

  • Enjoy the opportunity to express your opinion and respect the right of others to express theirs
  • Confine your remarks to issues rather than personalities

Together we can keep our community a polite, respectful and intelligent platform for discussion.

Tags

Free eNews

Children's charities call for an end to 'price-driven competition' in public service provision

28 Jul 2014

A coalition of 29 children’s charities and trade unions including Barnardo's and Action for Children...

PTA-UK: Big Society Network chief was confident of funding

28 Jul 2014

PTA-UK has revealed that it turned down an invitation from Big Society Network to be a partner in its...

Big Society Network chair’s company gave £64k to Conservative Party

28 Jul 2014

A company owned by the chair of Big Society Network donated services totalling more than £54,000 to the...

PTA-UK: Big Society Network chief was confident of funding

28 Jul 2014

PTA-UK has revealed that it turned down an invitation from Big Society Network to be a partner in its...

FRSB rejects complaint against the RSPB

25 Jul 2014

The Fundraising Standards Board has thrown out a complaint that the RSPB’s Abernethy Forest appeal made...

Culture, Media and Sport Committee launches inquiry into society lotteries

25 Jul 2014

The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has launched an inquiry into society lotteries that will...

Online donations forms are too long and cost charities donations, finds report

28 Jul 2014

One third of leading charity websites require potential donors to complete more than 20 actions before...

Greenpeace video removed from YouTube following copyright claim

14 Jul 2014

A campaign video by Greenpeace against Lego’s relationship with Shell has been subject to a copyright...

Oxfam advert removed after appearing before extremist videos

10 Jul 2014

Oxfam has removed one of its adverts from YouTube after it was shown on channels showing content from...

Join the discussion

Twitter
 
Training

Attending our one day courses is a highly effective way of ensuring new and existing trustees fully understand their role, responsibilities and liabilities.

>> Find out more <<