Does the Equality Act 2010 apply to your Probus Club?
What is an association?
For the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 an organisation is an association if:
- it has 25 or more members, AND
it has rules (not necessarily formal or written) regulating who can be a member and there is a genuine selection process for members.
1) If you only allow people to become members if they are nominated by one or more existing members as part of the joining process
2) If anyone wishing to join has to be approved by a majority of existing members.
What does this mean for single-sex clubs?
The Act allows private clubs and other associations (except political parties) to restrict membership to people who share protected characteristics. This means it is lawful to have a private club, for example, for women, for people from Australia, etc.
A private club that restricts membership to people with a particular protected characteristic may also place similar restrictions on access by associates and guests.
The above information has been copied and pasted from two official websites
The Government Equality Office:
The Equality and Human Rights Commission:
FURTHER INFORMATION – readers’ letters
As a matter of clarification arising out of correspondence with the secretary of another Probus Club it should be pointed out that Schedule 16 of the Equality Act 2010 does provide exemption for associations whose membership consists of members who share a protected characteristic, eg sex.
In other words a male only/ female only club may retain its single membership status irrespective of its membership numbers. However, the legislation will apply to any club which currently has mixed gender membership or intends to alter its membership to admit members of a different sex.
In effect, the Equality Act allows two types of Probus Club to exist: mixed membership clubs which will be subject to the legislation regarding access to benefits and services etc., such as Hull Alpha Probus Club, and continuing single sex clubs which can rely on the exemption, whatever its membership numbers are.
The law has created a possible dual type of situation which can only confuse club officers and members.
Malcolm Forbes.Chairman of Hull Alpha Probus Club
In the spring 2013 edition you called for the experiences of clubs that had opened their ranks to female members. My club, Petersfield South Downs, went through this process last year and other clubs, may find the way we dealt with it of some help.
First, we debated the issue carefully in committee and agreed there had to be a unanimous committee decision before doing anything. Once that agreement had been obtained, the obvious question was how do we do it? The easiest way was to make a small but hugely significant change to the wording of our constitution, namely: delete “businessmen” and insert “business people” where appropriate. We then put this amendment to the membership at our 2012 AGM. As you can imagine, this had an effect similar to a hand grenade and the spluttering in the beer was palpable. Several people raised procedural objections and we were obliged to convene a Special General Meeting (SGM) at a later date to ensure everyone had more time to consider the ramifications of the change. Out of a total membership of 55, the vote ended as follows:
Against at the meeting 12
Against by Postal Vote 8
Against Total 20
For at the meeting 20
For by Postal Vote 5
For Total 25
(8 members did not vote)
As you will see, the majority in favour was slim; just five votes.
I can hear you ask: what have been the consequences? Put simply, five members resigned on principle and another five elderly members have resigned because of infirmity, or so they said. And do we have any female members yet? Yes, one lady joined shortly after the change to the constitution (in a previous life she had been an assistant director in the world of higher education, and the vice-chair of the local branch of the Institute of Advanced Motorists) and another is considering membership.
Are we glad we made the change? Yes! We must move with the times and respect fully the contribution women make to society. Those who feel aggrieved will eventually get over their misgivings. And this comes from a club that is not particularly pc!
David Griffiths. Press officer and former chair
How Church Stretton Probus Went Mixed
I was very interested to see your item in the spring magazine about “mixed Probus Clubs”.
Facetiously, I can’t resist commenting that, when reading the magazine, it is apparent that clubs across the country are very mixed already – i.e. diverse!
However, to the serious point – here in Church Stretton we “went mixed” some years ago. At one AGM we were updating minor errors and omissions in our constitution – “nit picking” some called it! One small change to the wording was for “retired professional businessmen” read “retired professional and business people”. Although there was some slight dissent to this the objectors seemed to think it unlikely that any professional or business women would be invited or even actually want to join.
A few years ago at a town council committee meeting we were ﬁxing forthcoming dates. I mentioned that a certain Thursday was inconvenient because I was going to a Probus lunch.
Afterwards one councillor asked me “What is this Probus?” I explained as best I could and considerable interest was expressed. I duly consulted the chairman and was delighted when my guest attended a lunch as the usual “taster” – pardon the pun! Councillor Smith was eminently eligible for membership of Probus; successful in business, well thought of, a JP and Mayor of Church Stretton – in fact well able to make a good contribution to the life of the club.
Beryl still insists that I forgot to mention that we were all men – I am still gallant enough not to argue the point too strongly in public (but just between you and me I am sure I did!)
However, after getting over the initial shock she apparently enjoyed the event to the extent that she came again the next month and joined soon afterwards. At our AGM last year we elected Beryl Smith to chair the club. It couldn’t happen to a more suitable person or a better club! Although we still only have one lady member she is most certainly not the token female.
What is more, Beryl obviously went home with good things to say about our Probus Club. How do we know this? Tony Smith, Beryl’s husband, also joined Probus – but was tactful enough to join the other Probus in the town (Stretton Vale – not mixed). There will be an interesting situation when the annual dinners with our partners come round. The chair and partner of one club is always invited to the dinner of the other – and Tony is also chair of his club.