Single Equality Act Green Paper Briefing
Please read this summary of our views and have your
say in the consultation.
The Discrimination Law Review was launched in February 2005. The
Green Paper is the first public consultation and conspicuously
failed to measure up to its terms of reference. These
- A consideration of the fundamental principles of discrimination
legislation and its underlying concepts and a comparative analysis
of the different models for discrimination legislation.
- An investigation of different approaches to enforcing
discrimination law so that a spectrum of enforcement options can be
- An understanding of the evidence of the practical impact of
legislation – both within the UK and abroad – in tackling
inequality and promoting equality of opportunity.
- An investigation of new models for encouraging and
- Consideration of the opportunities for creating a simpler,
fairer and more streamlined legislative framework in a Single
The Discrimination Law Review was to be grounded in a
comprehensive analysis of the efficacy of Great Britain’s current
equality enactments and the requirements of European equality
Our view of the Green Paper
Progress towards substantive equality for disabled people is far
too slow and in some areas we are drifting backwards. For example,
according to the Equality Review, at the current rate of progress
employment equality will simply never be achieved for disabled
people. Meanwhile three out of every ten disabled adults of
working age are living in poverty in Britain – a higher proportion
than a decade ago and double the rate among non-disabled adults
The state of anti-discrimination legislation is partly to blame.
It is complex, full of holes and does not provide us with the right
set of tools to root out systemic inequalities.
An historic opportunity lies ahead with the promise of a Single
Equality Act within the lifetime of this Parliament. Clear,
comprehensive and effective new equality legislation is vitally
needed to inject new momentum into the battle for real equality for
disabled people, older people, women and men, transgender people,
lesbians and gay men and people of different religious beliefs.
The Green Paper should be setting out proposals for an equality
law which is fit to address the challenges and embrace the
opportunities of 21st Century. It fails to measure up.
Fails to meet its Brief
Whilst it addresses to some extent the issue of simplification
of the law, overall we believe that the Green Paper has failed to
meet its Brief. It fails to put forward any substantive
improvements in securing compliance, or achieving better methods of
enforcement. In particular, there are no plans to address the
continuing failure of the private sector to tackle discrimination
or embrace equality.
The proposals fail to address some of the gaps in protection and
deep seated problems regarding the way in which disability and
other equality laws work – particularly in relation to access to
justice, and effective means of tackling persistent
Undermines the Disability Equality Duty in three fundamental
- The principle underpinning all 3 equality duties at present is
mainstreaming: they require equality issues to be taken on board in
everything that public authorities do.
The Green Paper proposes narrowing this duty so that authorities
are required to set equality objectives – and take proportionate
action to achieve these. We oppose this because it breaks
completely with the mainstreaming requirement which is the heart of
the equality duties. This proposal would remove the requirement for
equality impact assessments. Instead we think the gender duty is a
good model for the future development of equality duties; it
requires due regard to gender equality in all the actions of a
public authority and also requires equality objectives to be
- At present most public authorities have to produce 3 year
schemes with detailed requirements including monitoring and showing
what steps they will take to promote equality – and they must
involve disabled people in these schemes. The Green Paper proposes
a far less specific requirement – that will be far harder to
enforce and far harder for disabled people to use to hold
authorities to account. It proposes instead ‘principles’ to
‘underpin effective performance of public sector duties’. The
involvement of disabled people will be a ‘principle’ instead of a
- At present any interested party can challenge a public
authority decision on the basis that it fails to give due regard to
disability equality. It is proposed that this will no longer be the
case with only the CEHR being able to take enforcement action.
There are some positive steps on disability – particularly the
proposal to require landlords to allow tenants to make changes
(such as installing chair lifts). We approve the proposed
re-drafting of the disability discrimination provisions. However,
these gains are small in relation both to the outstanding problems,
and more particularly to the impact of weakening the disability
We also welcome proposals that will benefits other groups:
to prohibit age discrimination in goods and services, to extend the
duty to promote equality to all groups covered by the Single
Equality Act and the loosening of restrictions on positive action
(disability discrimination is distinctive in not imposing any
restrictions on positive discrimination).
The deadline for responding to the Green Paper is 4 September
2007. The consultation paper is available on the Department for
Communities and Local Government website via the following link:
Framework for Fairness: Proposals for a Single Equality Bill for
It is important that the Discrimination Law Review hears from
all those with an interest in the future of equality. Anyone can
make a submission. You can respond to the questions asked but
should also raise other issues – that may not be included in the
What the DRC would like to see in the Single Equality Act
- Stronger enforcement mechanisms: equality tribunals, group and
representative actions and effective sanctions.
- Extended and strengthened duty to promote equality: applies to
all strands, retains the requirement on most authorities to produce
public equality schemes, explicitly applies to public
- A clear statement in the Act of its purpose: not merely
eliminating discrimination but enhancing dignity and participation
and achieving substantive equality through positive action where
required. Such a clause would improve public understanding and
guide courts, tribunals, and everyone else dealing with the
legislation as to how it should be applied and interpreted.
- Banning all disability discrimination: ships, planes,
volunteers and armed services.
- Stronger protection against education discrimination.
- A simpler, better definition of disability.
- Protection for those discriminated against because they are
associated with or perceived to be a disabled person (this would
benefit carers, people working with HIV positive people and many
others) and a fairer approach to disability discrimination per se
(protecting anyone discriminated against on grounds of
- Protection against genetic discrimination.
- Clear protection against multiple-discrimination.
Many of the weaknesses in the current proposals apply with equal
force to other forms of discrimination. We have produced, and
published on our website, shared briefing notes with the Commission
for Racial Equality and the Equal Opportunity Commission on:
Have your say!
Law Review consultation closes on 4 September.