When is it legal to deny certain people entry into your venue?

Equality and diversity is a much-debated topic within the night-time industry. It’s important to make sure your venue’s inclusive and accessible. And more important still, you need to stay on the right side of equality law.

Can I restrict certain people from entering my club?

If you own a private club, such as a gentlemen’s club, you can limit your membership to people who share a certain protected characteristic. This includes physical or mental disability, gender, sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, colour, religion and other protected characteristics. It’s worth noting that, while ethnic origin is listed as a protected characteristic, colour does not.

You can’t, however, turn someone away because of a protected characteristic if it is not directly relevant to your club’s membership entry requirements. So, for example, a gentleman’s club can refuse to admit a woman but it can’t refuse to admit a man as a member because of their sexual orientation.

It’s also not legal to grant someone less favourable terms such as restricted access or higher fees because the person has a protected characteristic not related to your membership requirements. For example, a private club can refuse to admit females altogether, but it can’t allow women into the club for a higher fee.

Is my club covered by the Equality Act?

To legally restrict your membership and comply with the Equality Act 2010, you must be classed as an association. This means you must have 25 or more members and have membership rules and regulations.

If your venue or club is open to any members of the public such as a nightclub or restaurant, you won’t be covered by the same regulations. Therefore, it is not legal for you to limit your membership and your venue must be open and available to everyone.

Avoiding discrimination

While it is legal for private clubs to permit only certain people to their club, it is not legal for any discrimination or harassment to take place. The Equality Act 2010 protects members against any discrimination based on protected characteristics.

It’s obvious that any abusive remarks or harassment happening within a private club is illegal. There is no law that gives credence to “what happens in the club, stays in the club”. It’s simply not true. Your private club is always bound by the laws of the Equality Act 2010, and therefore no discriminatory language, victimisation or harassment must occur. This applies to guests or potential members, too.

Can I hold separate events for my members?

It’s not legal to restrict members from accessing the clubs at certain times due to a protected characteristic.

Having said that, you can hold events such as sports or activities where people who share a certain characteristic are at an advantage / disadvantage. For example, sports clubs are legally able to hold separate competitions or sporting sessions for men and women or for disabled members. This is to ensure all members have equal opportunities to take part.

Clubs are able to offer single-sex services provided there is joint provision for both men and women and, if the service was provided for both sexes, there would be less uptake and therefore single-sex provision is necessary.

Do I need to make adjustments for my club’s guests?

A club is required to make reasonable adjustments to allow disabled members and guests to participate fully. This includes making the venue more accessible for all guests (including accessible entrances, or the allowance of assistance dogs). However, your venue won’t need to make changes that fundamentally change the nature of the club.

It is legal to try and encourage membership from under-represented groups, or to try and make a club more accessible. This could include lower membership fees for those with a disability, discounted fees for younger or older members, or a taster session to encourage a certain type of person to join the club. 

Could someone make a discrimination claim against my club?

If a member, potential member or guest believes your club to be discriminatory then they can sue you.

While you are covered under your Employers’ Liability Insurance for any discrimination claim made against you by an employee, a claim made by a member of the public is a completely different situation.

Liability policies cover you for accidental damage, such as injury or illness. Insurers will argue that discrimination is not accidental – it’s an intentional act. Therefore there is no protection available to you if you are found liable for discrimination.

However, insurance cover to protect you against slander or defamation of character is available if someone has made a false allegation against you. For more information on your policy, call our team for a confidential chat.

As there is no type of insurance cover available if you lose a discrimination case, you need to be extra careful to comply with law and regulations. If you don’t, you could face a hefty claim against you and no insurance policy to act as your financial safety net. This could be crippling for your club. It’s best from every perspective to mitigate risk and protect yourself by ensuring your club is totally compliant with the law.

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