The current equality legislation has become complex and difficult to use. Over the last ten years the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, Race Relations Act 1976, and Disability Discrimination Act 1995 have been expanded, and new laws have also been introduced to cover discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, sexual orientation and age.
In February 2005 the government announced the arrival of the Discrimination Law Review. The aim of the Review was to consider the opportunities for creating a more streamlined equality legislation framework.
When the Interim Report was published in 2006 the WNC prepared a response raising a number of issues which we were concerned about. A copy of our response can be downloaded here (Word 50 Kb). Amongst other areas, we were concerned about its use of an unrecognised definition of equality and the concentration on trigger events in causing inequality.
The Review also ran alongside the Equalities Review, which published its final report, Fairness and Freedom: The Final Report of the Equalities Review on 28 February 2007.
The Government published a green paper in June 2007, setting out its recommendations for a single equality act for Great Britain.
A year later, on 21 July 2008, the Government published their response to the discrimination law review - 'The Equality Bill – Government Response to the Consultation'. The publication gives further details of the content of the proposed Equality Bill as well as summarising the responses received to the Discrimination Law Review consultation held in 2007.
The Equality Act 2006 gained royal assent on 16 February 2006. It relates to equality law in Great Britain as a separate legislative framework exists for Northern Ireland. The Act had four main purposes:
- to provide support to individuals experiencing discrimination or prejudice on the basis of race, gender, disability, age, religion or sexual orientation and to provide advice to business, through a single Commission for Equality and Human Rights;
- to make unlawful (subject to the exemptions of the Act) discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief in the provision of goods, facilities, services, premises, education and the exercise of public functions;
- to provide powers to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods, facilities, services, premises, education and the exercise of public functions; and
- to introduce a duty on public authorities to promote equality of opportunity between men and women (the Gender Equality Duty) and to prohibit sex discrimination in the exercise of public functions