THE EQUALITIES BILL Policy Briefing â€“ July 2009
To date there has been three separate equality duties on public bodies â€“ on race in 2000, disability in 2005 and gender in 2006. Building on this, the Equalities Bill will create a new single public sector Equality Duty which in addition to the current equalities groups includes pregnancy and maternity and gender re-assignment. The legislation to which the Duty applies includes central government departments, local authorities, police, education, NHS and private bodies delivering a public function. A NEW PUBLIC SECTOR DUTY TO CONSIDER REDUCING SOCIOSOCIO-ECONOMIC INEQUALITIES Inequality does not just come from gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, age, belief or religion. There are also persistent inequalities because of your family background or because of your social class. Evidence shows children who are better off are able to overtake poorer children academically at school by the age of 6. It also shows that poorer people do not live as long rich people. The Bill will place a new duty on Government Ministers, departments and key public bodies such as local authorities and the NHS to consider what action they can take to reduce the socio-economic inequalities people face. This will affect how public bodies make strategic decisions about how money is spent and how services are delivered. This duty does not apply to frontline service deliverers, so you would not expect a local GP to make a decision about prioritising people as patients from disadvantaged areas. What you could see is a central government department or the local authority prioritising funds to tackle issues which highlight real social inequalities.
The Socio-economic duty on public bodies and the public sector Equality Duty are likely to come into force in 2011. A NEW EQUALITY DUTY ON PUBLIC BODIES The new Equalities Bill will create a new single public sector Equality Duty to cover not only the three separate equality duties placed upon public bodies since 2000 (i.e. on race, disability and gender), but will also cover age, sexual orientation, religion/belief, pregnancy and maternity and gender reassignment. The Duty will require public bodies to consider the needs of all diverse groups when designing and delivering public services as well as private bodies delivering a public function. USING PUBLIC PROCREMENT TO IMPROVE EQUALITY The Bill makes it clear that public bodies can use procurement to drive equality for example, using the pre-qualification questionnaire to ensure potential suppliers disclose any breaches of equality legislation. BANNING AGE DISCRIMINATION OUTSIDE OF THE WORKPLACE The Bill will make it unlawful to discriminate because of age when providing services or carrying out a public function (previously it was unlawful to discriminate only in the workplace). For example travel insurance based on risk rather than assumptions about the health of a person because of age. The new law on age discrimination will come into force in phases starting with those sectors most ready to comply. GENDER PAY AND EQUALITIES The Bill will require the private sector employers with 250 employees or more to report on the gender pay gap. However, this power will not come into force until 2013. Public sector organisations with 150 employees or more will be required to report on their gender pay gap and their ethnic minority and disability employment rate. consultation on the precise details taking place over the summer.
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POSITIVE ACTION Positive action is used to make the workforce more diverse. The Bill will expand the way positive action can be used so that employers can pick someone for a job from an underrepresented group when they have the choice between two or more candidates who are equally suitable. Positive discrimination will still remain unlawful. Positive action will also extend into political life to enable political parties when selecting candidates to use women-only shortlists until 2030. Parties will also be able to take positive measures to increase candidates from other under-represented groups. STRENGTHENING THE POWERS OF OF EMPLOYMENT TRIBUNALS The Bill will now allow tribunals to make recommendations during discrimination cases which can benefit the workforce and not just the individual. For example, in the case of sexual discrimination, the tribunal could make recommendations to the employer to review its equal opportunities policy to help prevent future claims of the same nature. PROTECTING CARERS FROM DISCRIMINATION The Bill will strengthen the law to protect carers from discriminations such as an employee being turned down for promotion because he/she cares for an elderly relative. OFFERING NEW MOTHERS STRONGER PROTECTION WHEN BREAST FEEDING The Bill will make it unlawful to prevent mothers from breastfeeding by removing them out of places such as coffee shops, restaurants and public galleries.
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buses. PRIVATE MEMBERS CLUB The Bill will make it unlawful for private membersâ€™ clubs and associations which admit a range of members or guests of members to discriminate. All members have to be treated equally. IMPROVING IMPROVING PROTECTION FROM DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION The Equality Bill will make it unlawful to knowingly treat a disabled person in a particular way which amounts to poor treatment unless that treatment can be justified.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? By spring 2010 the Bill should receive Royal Assent (subject to approval) and by autumn 2010 the majority of the Bill should come into force. Other parts of the Bill such as the socio-economic duty will come into force in phases.
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