The Equality Bill

The last 40 years has seen the introduction of laws, regulations and codes of practice designed to promote civil rights and equality in the UK.

Currently there are nine major pieces of discrimination legislation, around 100 statutory instruments setting out rules and regulations and more than 2,500 pages of guidance and statutory codes of practice.

The new Equality Bill, which is expected to receive royal assent next Spring and come into force during 2010 and 2011, will streamline all elements of protection against discrimination into a single Act with consistent concepts across all discrimination strands.

The new legislation will bring about some important changes for businesses. It will, for instance:

• Bring in gender pay reports;
• Use public procurement to improve equality;
• Extend the use of positive action in the workplace; and
• Ban age discrimination

The most obvious impact will be on those businesses who supply products or services to the public sector as they will be required to demonstrate good equality practice within their policies and procedures in order to be an approved supplier.

Such businesses may also be required to ensure their own suppliers/subcontractors can demonstrate the same commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion and so the requirements for equality good practice are expected to drill down through the supply chain.

Furthermore. many larger companies are also now insisting that suppliers meet their required standards for equality in the workplace and it is expected that evidence of equality good practice will become part of the standard process when tendering for business.

Figures published by the Employment Tribunal Service for the financial year 2008/2009 show that out of 151,000 accepted claims over 50% of these were related to discrimination. With unlimited awards the cost of non-compliance could be high.

with thanks to Terri Connor, Equality Advisor, QED Management Systems