Equality laws not fit for purpose

MPs are calling for a fundamental shift in how equality laws are enforced saying the current approach “dates back to the 1960s” and is not fit for purpose.

The Women and Equalities Committee has said that the current approach, relying on the individual to initiate legal action, is outdated.

Its report, Enforcing the Equality Act 2010: the law and the role of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), released this week after a year long inquiry, described the EHRC as “timid”, and recommends a new approach to provide a “sustainable deterrent and [to] tackle institutional and systemic discrimination”.

The burden of enforcement must shift away from the individual

Committee Chair Maria Miller said:

“Creating a fairer society where people are not treated differently because of the colour of their skin, their sex, gender, sexuality or religion is central to British values.

In our first four years, in inquiry after inquiry the Women and Equalities Committee has heard abundant evidence of the destructive impact discrimination has on people’s lives, as well as the heavy cost that puts on society and public services.

One thing is absolutely clear: the burden of enforcement must shift away from the individual.

We need a fundamental shift in approach, and our report shows how to do it.”

The main recommendations of the report are:

●      Develop a “critical mass” of cases to inform employers and organisations about their legal duties and make adherence to existing equality law a priority for all organisations

●      Move away from relying so heavily on the current model of using individual litigation to create precedents

●      Make obligations on employers, public authorities, and service providers explicit and enforceable

●      Ensure that all who have powers to change the way in which employers, public bodies and service providers operate use their powers to eliminate discrimination and to advance equality

●      The EHRC must refocus its work and be bolder in using its unique enforcement powers.

Employers should take note that the recommendations place the emphasis for raising workplace discrimination issues on employers, public authorities and service providers, rather than individual employees. Some employers will see this as an unwelcome interference but without a shift in the burden of proof, nothing is going to change.

Previously employers have been unafraid to discriminate knowing that it previously was difficult to hold them to account. If these changes are implemented well, it could be a better way of doing business, saving time, money and helping support a better working environment for everyone.

Posted on 6 August, 2019 by Ortolan

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