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Framework for a Fairer Future - Government announces Equality Bill measures in parliament

The government yesterday published their “Framework for a Fairer Future document”, outlining their plans to streamline and strengthen current discrimination legislation. Of significant note was the proposed banning of age discrimination which was widely reported in the national press.

The document explains the government’s belief that progress has been made in the quest for equality, but challenges remain in areas such as equal pay and employment opportunities for the disabled, ethnic minorities and people over the age of fifty.

Announcing the measures Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality commented:-

“Despite considerable progress, inequality and discrimination still exist: Women are paid on average 12.6% less per hour than men; disabled people are two and a half times more likely to be out of work, and ethnic minorities a fifth less likely to find work; and two thirds of over-fifties feel that they are turned down for a job because they are too old.”

The key measures proposed are as follows

* The Equality Bill will ban 'gagging clauses' so that work colleagues can compare wages and challenge employers who unlawfully pay them less.
* Public authorities will report on important inequalities like gender pay, disability employment and ethnic minority employment.
* At the moment Employment Tribunals can only make judgments work for the individual who brought the case. The Bill will allow tribunals to make recommendations which will benefit everybody in the workforce and stop similar types of discrimination happening again.
* The government will look at how public procurement can be used to deliver transparency and change by ensuring suppliers comply with equality best practise standards.
* The Equality and Human Rights Commission will conduct a series of inquiries in sectors where there is clear inequality, for example the gender pay gap in financial services is 41.5% compared with the national figure of 12.6%.
* Businesses will be challenged through the development of an equality "kite-mark" to report on the gender pay gap in their organisation and their employment of disabled and ethnic minority staff.
* The Government will work with the CBI and Unions to collect evidence on the effectiveness of equal pay job evaluation audits.
Postive discrimination

Also introduced in the proposed legislation will be the sanctioning of positive discrimination, this will be in situations where a candidate from an underrepresented group can be favoured in place of a candidate of equal suitability.  The CBI, TUC and Equality and Human Rights Commission have backed the challenging proposition.

Public sector compliance

There will be a new streamlined equality duty on the public sector, which will now include age and sexual orientation. Public bodies will now need to consider how services affect a wider range of different people.

Ms Harman said:

"This is an important milestone on the road to a fair and equal society. Fairness is important for every individual, for our society, and for our economy.

"We have made progress on tackling unfairness against women and black and Asian people and people with disabilities. But we want to do more. This is why we're introducing the Equality Bill, which will streamline and strengthen the law.

"Fairness is important for the rights of individuals, for our society to be peaceful and at ease with itself, and for our economy to be effective.

"Equality is not just right in principle, but is necessary for Britain to be a modern and thriving economy; diversity makes us outward facing and helps us compete in the global economy."

However not everybody agrees that the bill goes far enough, management consultant Kate Phizackerley is quoted as saying:

“It is this preoccupation with some groups being more equal than others that goes to the heart of the failings of this document. For instance one of the groups which faces most discrimination are transgendered people. And yet there is no mention of transgendered people in the new document”

Kate Phizackerley goes on to point many other flaws within the proposals, for an interesting analysis please see the link below

Kate Phizackerley’s Blog

A comprehensive paper on the content of the Equality Bill will be published later this summer, which will include the response to the Discrimination Law Review: A Framework for Fairness consultation.

The Bill is expected to be introduced in the next Parliamentary session, which starts in December.

'Blueprint for a Fairer Future - The Equality Bill' can be downloaded at

http://www.equalities.gov.uk

That said the links were not working at the time of publishing this post, apologies if this is still the case.

Posted by publisher

Asif Yusuf


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