“Caste” will not become a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010

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“Caste” will not become a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010

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The Government has concluded its consultation into the question of whether caste should be included within the protected characteristics listed within the Equality Act 2010, in order to offer appropriate legal protection against caste discrimination in Britain.

Having considered the findings carefully, the Government has decided not to include caste within the specific legislation, preferring for the courts to rely on emerging case law. The key reasons for this were considered to be the difficulty in defining caste in legislation, the importance of trying to avoid enhanced friction between different groups, and the difficulty in differentiating caste from social class (and hence trying to avoid the inclusion of social class as a protected characteristic).

This matter has deeply divided the Indian community in the UK, but although it will not be a specific characteristic, case law does indicate an evolving way forward in this area, and courts are still permitted to use the cases before them in developing protections as are necessary in such areas, where connected with existing characteristics (e.g. ethnicity). It therefore does not mean that any negative treatment on the basis of caste should be tolerated by employers, and, of course, bullying and harassment on any ground can both be a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence, along with causing negative inter-employee relations.

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