The government's plans are outlined in two consultation documents, published today. Equality and Diversity: The Way Ahead, sets out the government's plans for new equality directives. Equality and Diversity: Making it Happen consults on some specific structural options, including a single equality body, for our statutory equality institutions in the future.
'This government is committed to making Britain a fairer place to live and work. Now, for the first time, we propose to outlaw discrimination at work on grounds of religion and belief. We're doing the same on grounds of sexual orientation.
'We are looking to bring about these and other changes in a sensible way that will have a real impact in offices, factories and every other workplace in Britain.
'These proposals will tackle unfair discrimination at work because it's bad for business, and bad for Britain, as the best employers already know.
'One of our proposals is to make it explicit in legislation for the first time, that harassment amounts to discrimination. Violence and intimidating behaviour in the workplace are, I know, are a concern amongst gay men and lesbians in the workplace. Using the same concept of harassment for these and other grounds such as race and disability, will mean that the law is more straightforward to use and that employers have a clear signal when they need to act.
Barbara Roche continued:
'Legislation is there to set fair standards, but our ambition is wider and will need to be achieved through other means. We want to bring about an equal society where cultural, social and racial diversity is respected and celebrated and where discrimination against individuals is tackled robustly. Effective institut ions play a crucial role in delivering this kind of culture change.
'Existing equality Commissions; the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Commission for Racial Equality and the Disability Rights Commission, have made an outstanding contribution since their establishment. But we need now to think about future institutions, and how to reflect a more integrated approach to equality that meets the needs and expectations of the 21st century.'
The government has been working closely since May with the existing commissions, as well as groups representing people of different ages, religions and sexual orientations, and is today publishing a consultation document to enable as many people as possible to share their views.
Barbara Roche said: 'We're taking an important step in launching this document. Equality and Diversity: Making it Happen sets out three key options for future equality institutions, including a single equality body. Our vision, of an equal, inclusive society where everyone is treated with respect has been the driver behind these models. I am keen to hear views on these from all with an interest.'
Minister for race relations, Lord Filkin said:
'Since 1997, the government has done much to stamp out unlawful race
discrimination in the UK but there is more still to be done. Britain leads
the way in Europe with its provisions to deliver and promote racial
'The provisions of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 were
far-reaching. Implementing the EC Article 13 Race Directive further enhances
the UK's race equality legislation, giving the public greater protection
from unlawful discrimination than ever before.'
Welcoming the government's proposals, Stonewall's executive director, Angela Mason said:
'Equality and Diversity - The Way Ahead really does highlight the way ahead, where equality will become a key factor in developing social and economic empowerment. Getting all the details right, including the helpful proposals for dealing with sexual orientation, will require a lot more discussion but this is a vision that many, many people can buy into.'
1. Equality and Diversity ??? The Way Forward and Equality and Diversity - Making It Happen are both available here, or on request if you call 0870 1502 500.
2. Equality and Diversity ??? The Way Forward also outlines proposals to make
important modifications to the law on disability, race and equal pay for women and men.
3. The consultation Equality and Diversity: The Way Ahead closes on January 24, 2003. The consultation Equality and Diversity: Making it Happen closes February 21, 2003.
4. The Regulatory Impact Assessment of the proposals is a first year one-off cost of (getting to grips with the legislation)£52m. The recurring net quantifiable costs are then£11m a year but the recurring net quantifiable benefits are between£26-32m a year. The initial cost is therefore completely recouped after 2-3 years.
5. There are more unquantified benefits than unquantified costs.
6. Towards Equality and Diversity was launched in December 2001. It set out the Government's proposals for taking forward the implementation of the EC Employment and Race Directives (in it the government proposed amendments to the Race Relations and Disability Discrimination Acts in Great Britain, together with new legislation to outlaw discrimination at work on the groups of sexual orientation, religion and age).
7. The government has outlined that a single equality body will not be in the lifetime of this parliament.