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Relevance of Anti-Discrimination Laws

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 18 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Discrimination B&b Law Disability

Anti-discrimination laws can affect bed and breakfast owners in three ways: firstly the application of the equal employment opportunity laws, secondly the disability discrimination act with regard to access to the property for everybody, and finally the control that B&B owners have over the guests they allow into their establishments.

Equal Employment Opportunity and the B&B

Equal employment opportunity laws mean that no B&B owner can refuse to employ someone on the grounds of race, religion or belief, sexuality, disability, sexual orientation or age. Most B&B's are only likely to employ a few part-time chambermaids and cleaners, or possibly kitchen and waiting staff if they have a large B&B and offer evening meals to guests, or drinks and snacks during the day to passing trade.

As you are not employing many staff it means that the overhead of complying with the act isn't going to be that great. Be aware that you have to treat part-time employees in the same way as full-time staff though. It's good practice to avoid religion, sex or politics with both guests and employees anyway, you could just add age to that list.

As far as disability discrimination goes, if someone is physically incapable of doing the work that the job requires then you are not required to employ them, and if they are capable, even though they are disabled in some way, then there's no problem anyway.

Disability Discrimination Act

The Disability Discrimination Act has changed things for B&B owners in that the law requires them to make 'reasonable' changes to the property to allow access for all, not just able-bodied guests. Before the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 there was effectively a caveat operating that exempted small B&B's, those with capacity for six guests or fewer, from most legislation, including that referring to disability discrimination.

That no longer applies, so even small B&B owners now have to take notice of, and comply with, the provisions of the Act. In our article on this subject, 'Providing Access for Guests with a Disability', we discuss the law and its implications in more detail.

The Law and Discriminating Against Particular Guests

Access for all has become a contentious issue in the last few years. The days of overt race discriminations, seeing signs such as 'no blacks or Irish' in the windows of B&B's, are thankfully over, although some B&B's might pretend to be full if someone of a particular race turned up at the door. Discrimination like that is difficult to prove and enforce though.

The recent furore has surrounded discrimination against gay couples, where a number of B&B owners have refused to allow them to share a room on the grounds that their sexuality contradicts their religious beliefs. This was brought to a head when the government introduced the sexual orientation regulations that would outlaw the provision of any service on those grounds.

One of the examples chosen as a focus for opposition was the removal of the choice of a Christian B&B owner to refuse to allow same-sex couple into their establishment, as their sexual orientation offended their religious beliefs. Despite objections, from mainly Christian activists, the law was passed by both houses and the fuss now seems to have died down.

What Will Come Next?

These laws and regulations surrounding all the various forms of discrimination and their affect on the B&B owner need not be too great. They are all issues that most B&B owners will be able to comply with, without a great deal of difficulty, although it can be stressful trying to keep up to date with a seemingly unstoppable raft or legislation. It's also difficult to predict which anti-discriminatory law will be coming up next.

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