Friday October 23, 2020
For the road ahead

Government must do more to end inequality 10 years on from Equality Act


URTU is calling on the government to implement the Equality Act in full on its tenth anniversary today.

Unions are also challenging ministers to show how they have delivered on the legal duties in the act in their response to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The Equality Act became law a decade ago today on 1 October 2010. It protects working people from discrimination based on age, sex, disability, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, marriage or civil partnership status, pregnancy or maternity, or gender reassignment. It was also designed to improve the lives of working class people through tackling inequality, but that part of the act, the socio-economic duty, was never brought into force. 

URTU is concerned that ten years since it was introduced, the full powers of the act have still not been implemented. And there is little evidence that the government is fulfilling its legal duty to consider the impact on inequalities in the decisions it makes. 

Covid-19 has deepened inequality and discrimination at work, and unions are calling on the government to: 

  • Bring the socio-economic duty into force: This was included in the original act but never implemented. It would require government and the public sector to deliver better outcomes for lower income people and make narrowing inequality a priority.  

  • Reintroduce protections subsequently taken out: Previous governments have stripped away protections that were originally in the Equality Act - such Section 40, which would make employers liable for harassment of their employees by customers or clients. The union body says that in the current situation where hostility and assaults on retail and hospitality staff are increasing during the pandemic, this should be reinstated urgently.   

  • Publish equality impact assessments for all government policies, as the law requires: in particular, the government should publish every equality impact assessment that they carried out to inform their response to Covid-19 - and should be held to account for those that are missing. 

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