Equality Bill passed as Parliament draws to close

// 8 April 2010

Via People Management:

The equality bill has been passed before the dissolution of Parliament and will come into effect from October.

The bill, originally put forward by deputy Labour leader and equalities minister Harriet Harman, combines existing anti-discrimination legislation into a single equality act.

MPs yesterday approved the equality bill and its amendments without a vote in the “wash-up” period – when new laws are rushed through Parliament before it breaks for the general election.


The bill includes changes to the use of pre-employment questionnaires and the requirement for large organisations to reveal gender pay disparities. Provisions within the legislation could potentially force political parties to publish anonymous information on the diversity of their candidates.

The House of Lords’ amendments included protection against discrimination for pregnant schoolgirls and young mothers. Peers also removed a ban on civil partnerships taking place in religious premises, but retained the rights of churches to refuse to employ gay and transsexual people.

[Rachel Dineley, employment partner and head of the diversity and discrimination unit at law firm Beachcroft LLP, commented:] “Under the act, the government proposes to extend the positive action regime. Employers would be able to consider, when selecting between two equally qualified candidates, under-representation of disadvantaged groups and appoint the person from the under-represented. The merits of these new provisions are highly controversial and some view them as social engineering by the back door.”

The Bill has now been sent for Royal Assent, after which it will become an Act of Parliament.

Comments From You

Ally // Posted 8 April 2010 at 10:27 am

Sounds like social engineering through the front door to me. Utterly disgusting.

gadgetgal // Posted 8 April 2010 at 11:20 am

@Ally – do you actually understand what the definition of “social engineering” is? Because I’m thinking from what you wrote that you don’t. Social engineering can and does include things in law like prohibitions on murder, rape, theft and littering, which are all policies aimed at discouraging undesirable behaviours. If you want to drop all these then go ahead and lobby for it, but fortunately you won’t get much support as to do so would be RIDICULOUS.

If you’re going to scaremonger you should try and learn what the terms mean before you try to use them, otherwise people will find them easy to dismiss out-of-hand.

Ally // Posted 8 April 2010 at 11:41 am

I think it is fairly obvious that this is not the sense in which it is being used by the press- this is engineering in the capitalist market to achieve social aims, which is wildly different to having laws protecting property rights.

Melaszka // Posted 8 April 2010 at 12:12 pm

Can’t see how it’s social engineering – IMO, companies who are paying fairly have nothing to fear from pay audits and NB they’re not being required to hire a less qualified woman over a more qualified man – affirmative action is only permissible when there are two equally qualified candidates. What’s wrong with that?

On the down side, though, the sex education bill got spiked :(

Troon // Posted 8 April 2010 at 12:36 pm


Beyond the broader problems and ideological differences (are capitalist markets really so great for people that the minor tinkering suggested by ‘social engineering’ is so evil?) the part of the bill you’re commenting on does precisely the opposite. It doesn’t say ’employ an under-represented group’ it says ‘you may do so to increase diversity, without this being deemed illegal under equality law’. The imperatives for doing so may well be capitalist profit, since diversity of employee-base actually drives profit.

Maeve // Posted 8 April 2010 at 12:47 pm

This is giving more people more equality of opportunity, and trying to prevent discrimination. I don’t get why anyone would have a problem with that. Except, of course, the usual suspects.

Helen G // Posted 9 April 2010 at 1:56 pm

Comments are now closed.

Thank you all for your contributions.

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