Single Equality Bill aims to unite anti-discrimination laws
The Single Equality Bill has been published by the Government this week, alongside an explanatory document that states it is needed "to strengthen the law and bring forward new measures to fight discrimination."
The key points of the white paper include: a duty on public bodies to ban religious, age-related or racial discrimination; permission for companies to use positive discrimination in their recruitment practices; and a requirement to publish data on the gender pay gap in the public sector.
The focus on the public sector is reported to be the result of Cabinet pressure to water down the proposed changes to UK employment law, so that private companies would face only encouragement to be more open about their progress on equality if the Bill is passed. However, the Bill reserves the right for the Government to introduce compulsory disclosure for private firms in the future.
Despite the public focus, an employment lawyer cited by Human Resources magazine warns that the private sector is not completely insulated from the Bill, as any companies bidding for public-sector contracts will be forced to work within the anti-discrimination obligations faced by their potential client, adding that this will impose "significant financial and legal adjustments" on these firms.