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Equality Act [E/S/W]

The Bill's main duties are:

  • To establish the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) and to define its purpose and functions

  • To make unlawful discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief in the provision of goods, facilities and services, premises, education, and the exercise of public functions

  • To create a duty on public authorities to promote equality of opportunity between women and men ('the Gender Duty'), and to prohibit sex discrimination in the exercise of public functions
The CEHR will take on the work of the existing equality commissions (the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), and the Disability Rights Commission (DRC)) and will additionally assume responsibility for promoting equality and combating unlawful discrimination in three new strands, namely sexual orientation, religion or belief, and age. The CEHR will also have responsibility for the promotion of human rights.



Background

The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (SDA), Race Relations Act 1976 (RRA) and the Disability Rights Commission Act 1999 (DRCA) created the EOC, CRE, and DRC respectively. The Commissions are conferred by their individual founding legislation with responsibility for combating unlawful discrimination and promoting equality of opportunity as regards gender, race or disability. The EOC has responsibilities for the SDA and Equal Pay Act 1970, the CRE has responsibility for the RRA and the DRC enforces the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA).

The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 and Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 made discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and religion or belief in employment and vocational training unlawful. These Regulations implement the UK's obligations under the EC Employment Directive (Directive 2000/78/EC). Legislation is also being prepared to prohibit age discrimination in these areas, as required by the Employment Directive. There is currently no statutory institution with responsibility for promoting equality or combating unlawful discrimination in these new equality strands. Similarly, although all public bodies must adhere to the provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998, there is currently no statutory body charged with promoting human rights in Great Britain.

In October 2002, the Government issued a consultation paper - Equality and Diversity: Making it Happen - Consultation on future structures for equality institutions - comprising a review of existing institutional support for equality legislation and options for the future, in particular the feasibility of creating a single equality commission for Great Britain. A majority of respondents to the consultation supported the establishment of a single equality body.

In October 2003, the Government announced its intention to bring together the work of the existing Commissions in a new body that would also take responsibility for new laws on age, religion or belief and sexual orientation, and for the first time provide institutional support for human rights.

The White Paper (Cm 6185 Fairness for All: A New Commission for Equality and Human Rights) was published on 12 May 2004. The White Paper set out the Government's detailed proposals for the CEHR, including its role, duties and powers, and outlined the way in which the CEHR will deliver services to its key stakeholders. Views were invited on the proposals by 6 August 2004, and the Government's response to that consultation was published on 18 November 2004.

Territorial application

The Bill covers England, Scotland and Wales

The Act

The Act is in four parts:

Part 1 including Schedules 1, 2 and 3 establishes the CEHR and sets out its duties, general powers, enforcement powers and the interpretation of that Part of the Act. Dissolution of the existing equality commissions is also covered in this part of the Act.

Part 2 sets out provisions prohibiting discrimination on grounds of religion or belief in the provision of goods, facilities and services, education, premises and the exercise of public functions.

Part 3 sets out provisions prohibiting sex discrimination in the exercise of public functions and creates a public sector duty to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination and to promote equality of opportunity between women and men.

Part 4 including Schedule 4 contains general supplementary material including amendments and repeals, Crown application, money, commencement

Further Information

  1. Equality Bill [E/S/W]
  2. Draft Equality Bill Explanatory Notes
  3. Draft Equality Bill
  4. Equality Act 2006