Government asks if it’s a good idea to repeal the Equality Act 2010

// 13 April 2011

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equality.jpgThe Cabinet Office is consulting on whether to “scrap” the Equality Act 2010, which bundles together and (theoretically) toughens pre-existing anti-discrimination legislation, including on gender.

Many of the provisions of the act only came into force last week. Meanwhile, staff at the Equality and Human Rights Commission are considering strike action after they learned that cuts to the organisation’s budget could see half its workforce cut.

This is being proposed under the LibCon “red tape challenge” consultation and asks:

Should they be scrapped altogether?

Can they be merged with existing regulations?

Can we simplify them – or reduce the bureaucracy associated with them?

Have you got any ideas to make these regulations better?

Do you think they should be left as they are?

Anyone can respond to the consultation on the site: it’s a good time to tell the government why this piece of legislation is important. Feminist Philosophers suggests these talking points:

– point out that the Equality Act is primary legislation, not a regulation, and that it was supported by all the major parties only weeks before the last General Election;

– point out how improper this process is, when it appears to be asking about mere regulations but is in fact inviting criticism of the entire Act;

– explain why it’s important for discrimination to be unlawful;

– give examples of the difference made in people’s lives by the existence of equality law.

Drawing of scales of justice by saxarocks, shared on Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Comments From You

Helen G // Posted 13 April 2011 at 10:29 pm

I don’t know pretend to know about every aspect of the EA, but it doesn’t seem to have done any favours for anyone in possession of a Gender Recognition Certificate – I ranted about it at some length at BoP last year:

http://www.birdofparadox.net/blog/?p=8008

So from that pov, at least, I wonder if scrapping it might be a case of “good riddance to bad rubbish”.

But the question then is whether it will be replaced with anything else, and how (if) its removal will impact on the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

It certainly makes me wonder if this is just another cost-saving exercise that hasn’t been fully thought through by the current coalition government – It’ll be interesting to see how this all unfolds in the media.

Jess McCabe // Posted 13 April 2011 at 10:42 pm

@Helen G The act was far from perfect.

But it brings together and supercedes all pre-existing discrimination legislation, and it seems deeply unclear what would happen if it really was to be scrapped (would the previous acts come back into force? or would we be left with no protections at all?)

Ironically, one of the purposes of the act was to streamline previous legislation, so it is particularly ironic the government now sees it as ‘red tape’.

It did also introduce some improvements: for example, it bans employers from asking health-related questions when interviewing job candidates, which could be used to screen out candidates with disabilities or health issues.

It also notably extended anti-discrimination legislation to cover provision of goods and services, with new protections against ageism.

The act is not nearly as tough or wideranging in the protections it offers as it could be, but I can’t really get behind the idea that seeing it totally scrapped is the answer. Notably the consultation does ask how the act can be made better, so perhaps it is a good opportunity to suggest improvements?

Lisa // Posted 14 April 2011 at 12:15 am

One of the most obvious arguments against repealing the act is that the govt keep on saying that they want disabled people off benefits and working.

Even with the act in place a hell of a lot of disabled people can’t find work. Take it away and things start to look like they did 10 years ago. (I put some stats around employment of disabled people in http://wheresthebenefit.blogspot.com/2011/04/red-tape-challenge.html )

Clara X // Posted 14 April 2011 at 9:29 am

It’s probably worth pointing out that the Government is running the same consultation on pretty much every piece on legislation. The Equality Act hasn’t really being singled out as containing more red tape than other Acts.

Having said this, I suspect many businesses will answer this consultation and suggest that parts or all of the Act should be changed or scrapped, so please do respond to the consultation!

Kristin // Posted 14 April 2011 at 1:23 pm

I don’t think it’s unclear what would happen if this were to be scrapped – people would definitely be left without what little protection they’ve got. The labour market is becoming even more difficult for women, as well as for anyone of any gender with disabilities/health issues. And there’s ageism, which also hits women harder.

I think what we call ‘protection’, the government labels ‘red tape’, and that frightens me. Pesky red tape in situations where you want to just sack women who get pregnant, for instance, or don’t want to employ them in the first place. Things are difficult enough, and this will make it all worse. I hope it doesn’t happen. But.

I think Scameron and Clegg have been listening to all those business people, who are constantly lobbying for fewer rights for employees. And with idiots like David (‘feminism has led to worsening of poverty/social mobility) Willets in the government, it just all gets more worrying.

evie // Posted 14 April 2011 at 2:25 pm

@ Helen G

Yes, those sections of the act were pure cissexist excrement and it would be very good if they were scrapped (not mention stopping the act contradicting EU law).

However, other parts of the act brought in some wonderful improvements, including trans-specific improvements. Some examples can be found here: http://www.equalities.gov.uk/pdf/302043_GEO_Harassment_acc.pdf

evie // Posted 14 April 2011 at 5:48 pm

@ Clara X

From what Feminist Philosophers said, and from the Red Tape website, primary legislation isn’t meant to be up for critique, only regulations. This is the one exception.

Clara X // Posted 14 April 2011 at 7:46 pm

The trouble is that some primary legislation contains regulations, so it’s a bit of an artificial distinction. I assume that the Equality Act has been included because of the budget commitment to look at businesses.

On the whole, I think a website like this is a good opportunity to express concerns about legislation. Quite a few of the other posters on this thread have pointed out things they would like to be changed — few pieces of legislation are perfect.

(Also, I’m under the impression that if the Equalities Act was completely scrapped then the law would revert to the previous legislation. That’s what’s happened on similar occasions that I can think of. Hopefully it won’t come to that.)

FD // Posted 14 April 2011 at 9:52 pm

Just went and checked the repeals and revocations section of the act – it specifically repeals a whole bunch of things, including the Equal Pay Act 1970,

Sex Discrimination Act 1975 & 1986,

Race Relations Act 1976, and that’s just the first five. If legislation is repealed, it’s gone, no reversions possible unless the government passes a new act encompassing the previously repealed legislation. The law only reverts to the previous position if the previous law was superseded by the new one without specific revocation.

So, I’d say that scrapping the whole Equality Act 2010 would be a bad idea.

Clara X // Posted 15 April 2011 at 7:02 am

@FD

Well, that teaches me to make assumptions without going and double checking. I work under the various Local Government Acts, and the vast majority of those amend rather than repeal the previous legislation. You’re right then, the Government would need to include in their repeal a re-instating of previous legislation, unless the legislation has been superseded by legislation from the European Parliament.

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