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Biggest Review of Equality in 25 Years

New approach needed for equality
May 20 2006 - 1000's of tribunal cases have not delivered equality-it's time to consider what will

15 May 2002 - Barbara Roche, Minister responsible for equality co-ordination across Government, says that there are good arguments in favour of a single equality body and that the Government is now looking at the longer-term feasibility of this.

In a speech at the British Bankers Association in London, she said: "We are looking at the longer-term options for the UK's equality framework. This doesn't mean ignoring the voices of any particular group represented by the current Commissions. It does mean finding ways of involving those who think they aren't being catered for.

"Equality isn't a minority issue and discrimination legislation is not just about protecting a few, important though that is - it's relevant to all of us.

"But we also need to achieve a lasting culture change by looking beyond legislation, at the broader economic inequalities that still persist in our society.

"Women still lose out to a tune of 250,000 during their working lives; a ground- breaking PIU report for which I'm Sponsor Minister shows that a black man is still 2.5 times more likely to be unemployed than a white man; and people with disabilities are seven times more likely to be out of work than a non-disabled person.

"We are committed to an open and inclusive process and will be drawing on the expertise of those working in the field of equality, including the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Commission for Racial Equality and the Disability Rights Commission."

The EOC and the CRE were established in the mid-1970s and the DRC was set up by the Government, in 2000. Following a directive from the European Commission, the UK Government is committed to outlawing unfair discrimination at work for the first time on the grounds of religion and sexual orientation by 2003, and age by 2006.

The DTI recently conducted extensive consultation under the title of Towards Equality And Diversity, which took views from business, trade unions and interest groups. Respondents showed support for the concept of a 'joined-up approach.' But Barbara Roche emphasised there would be no changes to structures within the lifetime of this Parliament.

A project team in Cabinet Office will report on the initial conclusions of the Single Equality Commission Project in September. Terms of reference of the project are as follows:


One of the Government's main aims is to create opportunity for all. The promotion of equality for individuals, business and service providers is a key part of this. It also means that if people are unlawfully discriminated against they should have access to advice and support to resolve, if needs be through legal means, their cases. The Equal Opportunities Commission, the Commission for Racial Equality, and more recently, the Disability Rights Commission, have statutory powers to do carry out these functions in their respective regimes.

Legislation currently being introduced to implement the EU Article 13 Employment Directive will extend the grounds for protection against discrimination in employment and training to include sexual orientation and religion by 2003 and age by 2006.

In anticipation of this, the prospect of a single equality body in the 'longer term' was signalled in the consultation document on Article 13, launched on 13 December 2001. A new, more unified approach to equality has some clear attractions. It could provide a single point of contact for employers and employees, service providers, customers and members of the wider public, by offering advice and support on the broad range of common grounds for discrimination.

However, there are various models for achieving greater unity and these may impact in different ways on the work of the existing commissions. The advantages, disadvantages and the timescales need to be carefully examined. It is also necessary to consider the relationship between possible new arrangements for promoting equality and those for promoting and protecting human rights more widely.

A focussed project is therefore needed to look at these issues, and consider key relevant policy developments including:

- the creation of interim arrangements relating to sexual orientation, religion and age under the new legislation mentioned above
- alternative disputes resolution policy;
- modernised delivery of public services.


The project will:

- Examine the pros and cons of possible arrangements, in the long term for:
- promotion of equality in relation to sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion and age, to individuals, business and service providers;
- resolution of discrimination cases;
- production of statutory codes of practice and other guidance;
- "last resort" enforcement mechanisms;
- review of anti-discrimination legislation;
- assistance to individuals


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