Ministers to review public sector equality duty, repeal socio-economic duty PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 15 May 2012 14:43

The Government is to review the public sector equality duty “to establish whether this is the best way to ensure public bodies consider the impact of their decisions on different groups”.

The review is included in a package of measures announced as part of the so-called Red Tape Challenge.

In a written ministerial statement, Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities Theresa May said: “This government has a strong commitment to equality of opportunity. But we also have a strong desire to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy where it exists and consider alternatives to legislation.

“We committed last year to assess the effectiveness of the PSED specific duties. We have decided to bring forward that review and extend it to include both the general and specific duties to establish whether the duty is operating as intended.”

The measures will also see the repeal of the socio-economic duty, which ministers said would have forced public bodies to consider class-based inequality when developing policy.

Other proposals include:

  • Delaying commencement of the dual discrimination powers in the Equality Act 2010;
  • Delaying commencement of reasonable adjustments to common parts provisions;
  • Further clarification of disability law for employers;
  • Streamlining of the employment tribunal process. This will include removing tribunals’ ‘wider recommendations’ powers, and the statutory mechanism by which individuals can obtain information where they think an employer, or service provider, has acted unlawfully towards them;
  • Scrapping of the third party harassment law, “which makes bosses liable if a member of staff is harassed by a customer”.

The shake-up will also see reforms to the Equality and Human Rights Commission to “help focus it on its core functions and deliver value for money”.

Certain of the Commission’s duties and powers under the Equality Act 2006 will be removed, while tighter financial controls and a budget review will be imposed.

Other changes at the EHRC include the recruitment of a new chairman (Trevor Phillips will be standing down) and the establishment of a smaller board.

Theresa May said: “Bureaucracy and prescription are not routes to equality. Over-burdening businesses benefits no one, and real change doesn’t come from telling people what to do.

"Today’s announcement strikes the right balance between protecting people from discrimination and letting businesses get on with the job.”

Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said: “Since its creation the Equality and Human Rights Commission has struggled to deliver across its remit and has not demonstrated good value for money.

“Our reforms will provide it with a stronger focus and make it more accountable, helping it become the valued and respected national institution it was always intended to be.”

Copies of the relevant consultation documents can be found here

Philip Hoult