What is a private club, society or association?
It can be difficult to establish whether a club or society can be considered to be bound by equality law.
Clubs, societies or organisations which provide a service, for example a gym or a health club where a fee, (regular or not), is paid for the use of facilities are not considered to be associations. They are considered under the law to be service providers.
The Equality Act applies to associations in a different way to that which it applies to businesses or organisations operating as service providers. For example, associations, in a number of circumstances can restrict membership of their organisation with direct reference to some of the groups of individuals who are protected under the Equality Act.
A private club or society will be classed as an association if it has 25 members or more and operates a genuine selection process to become a member.
Associations can include private sports clubs, private members clubs, rotary clubs, young peoples organisations and clubs promoting interests.
Associations can therefore be profit making or not for profit organisations.
It is also possible for a club to be both an association and a service provider if it has 25 members or over and has a employs a selection process in appointing those members but, also offers services or the use of their facilities in exchange for payment, to the wider public. A prime example of such a dual organisation would be a local leisure centre or gym.
If a club cannot be classed as a provider of services to the wider public and it does not have 25 members or more and/or does not employ a selection process for the appointment of members, which means that it is not classed as an association, the club will not be bound by the terms of the Equality Act and therefore complaints and claims cannot be brought against it under that legislation.