Well, the consultation for the Single Equality Bill looks like it’s over. Minister for Equality and Women, Harriet Harman, recently unveiled the draft Bill which is expected to be implemented in this autumn’s Queen’s speech.
Unfortunately, positive action is on the table. Yes, I’m a big fan of women’s rights to equality, but allowing employers to recruit on the basis of gender or any other non-relevant-to-the-job criteria really doesn’t do much to support the cause. I want to be recruited because I’m good, not because the company is a bit short on brunettes about five foot tall.
There are some other good bits to the Equality Bill, including some stuff around equal pay which aims to close the gender pay gap. I particularly like the idea of banning ‘gagging clauses’ that prevent employees from comparing their wages. The Guardian has written about this recently.
The rest of the Bill covers:
- An extension of the existing requirement on public authorities to tackle discrimination and promote equality for race, disability and gender to include gender reassignment, age, sexual orientation and religion
- Outlawing unjustifiable age discrimination (don’t we have this already? I hadn’t realised we were so backward as a society. I hope it works for young people too, who also face a lot of age discrimination)
- Increasing transparency by requiring public bodies to report on gender pay, ethnic minority employment and disability employment. The private sector will also see increased transparency with the publishing of evidence on the effectiveness of equal pay audits in closing the gender pay gap.
- Strengthening enforcement by allowing tribunals to make wider recommendations in discrimination cases so there are benefits for the rest of the workforce of the accused employer.
Apparently this single Bill will “declutter” 40 years of discrimination law contained in nine pieces of legislation, as well as statutory instruments, rules and regulations and statutory codes of practice. Whatever. I want to see what actually changes as a result. I imagine that public sector organisations will have their HR teams bogged down in managing the legislation changes, and the private sector companies will carry on as is until someone raises a complaint. Having a new law won’t make people behave any differently, it’ll just make it more likely that they win in court when their employer treats them badly.