Red Tape Challenge Response

OSDC has responded to the Government’s Red Tape Challange, which this month has focused on the Equality Act 2010.

Who is protected

Hard-fought-for human rights should not be seen as burdensome. The 9 protected characteristics should either be left as they are or expanded. We welcome the redefinition of gender reassignment and the move away from the medical intervention definition. We also welcome the scrapping of the list of capabilities in recognition that mental ill health may also cause people to be unable to carry out day to day activities. We would like to see caste included within the definition of race and to see ‘carers’ or ‘carer status’ included as a separate protected characteristic.

Prohibited conduct

The Act provides a more consistent approach by extending protection from direct and indirect discrimination across the protected characteristics. Protection from discrimination by perception and by association is a welcome addition to the legislation. OSDC is disappointed that third party harassment has not been introduced.

Introducing better management systems, procedures and policies as well as providing training and development opportunities for staff in order to protect people from discrimination and harassment should not be viewed as bureaucratic or burdensome.

We are disappointed that the protection for people with dual characteristics has been taken out e.g. if someone is discriminated again because they are an ‘older woman’ (the comparator of young woman or older man does reflect the true nature of the discrimination).

At work

Clear guidelines for employers around employment and recruitment processes would enable to people to ensure they are doing all they can to develop a diverse workforce which is representative of their local community. Some employers may find the new legislation confusing in relation to pre-employment questionnaires and how they fit in with using the two ticks symbol to guarantee interviews to disabled people who meet the essential criteria of a job.

While employers are unable to enforce pay secrecy clauses they are still able to use them. This makes the law unclear and could be confusing for employees.

Occupational segregation continues to be a major contributing factor in the gender pay gap. Any reporting on gender pay difference by employers should be disaggregated by status/grade rather than produced as global figures for a whole company.

Buying goods and using services

Services need to be delivered based on the evidence of need.  A key part of equalities legislation is about ensuring access to goods and services for all – this is not only about adhering to the legislation but it also makes good business sense. This should certainly not be scrapped from the Act

Positive action

The extension of positive action is to be welcomed and any initiative that encourages disadvantaged and under-represented groups to participate and progress will lead to a more equitable society.

While the Act allows political parties to use positive action to increase the diversity of election candidates we feel it could go further and require them to do so, making their candidates more representative.

As long as there continues to be discrimination positive action is a useful tool to redress inequality.

Enforcing the law

OSDC would certainly not wish to see the EHRC being scrapped. We feel they have an important role to play, not just in the enforcement of the Act, but in the developing and sharing of good practice and in advising and encouraging the public and private sector to achieve best practice in equalities.

It is already difficult for people to bring a case of discrimination, as it is both costly and time consuming. We would welcome initiatives that make it easier for people to access their rights in relation to the Equality Act.

The Public Sector

The public sector duties should be strengthened. The general equality duty requires public bodies to be active in pursuit of equality and this is to be welcomed.  The specific duties need to be robust enough to provide clear guidance on how they do this.  We would welcome a structure that ensures there is accountability for the delivery of equality.  We need to ensure that equality is not a peripheral issue and in the current economic climate cuts to services must not have a disproportionate impact on those who are already disadvantaged.

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