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Equalities and Rights Equalities and Rights

Strengthen the enforcement of equalities laws

Last updated: 01:36pm 24 January 2019

We will strengthen the enforcement of equalities law – so that private landlords and businesses who deny people a service on the basis of ethnicity, religion or gender are properly investigated and prosecuted.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.56

Our verdict

The main piece of legislation on equality in the UK is the Equality Act 2010, which brought together more than 100 pieces of anti-discrimination legislation. The Equality Act is designed to protect against discrimination on the grounds of protected characteristics including age, disability, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. People can use employment tribunals or courts to enforce their right to not be discriminated against, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) also has enforcement powers.

In recent years, a number of inquiries by the Women and Equalities Committee have concluded that people struggle to enforce their rights under the Equality Act, and the effectiveness of the EHRC has also been brought into question.

This policy is a promise to strengthen the enforcement of equalities law, although it does not propose specific mechanisms for doing so.

The clearest sign of action has been the launch on 30 July 2018 of yet another inquiry by the Women and Equalities Committee. Under the Enforcing the Equality Act: the law and the role of the EHRC inquiry, the committee will investigate:

  • the processes by which individual cases can be brought under the Equality Act
  • the role of the EHRC as the enforcement body
  • whether there are other models of enforcement that could achieve more widespread compliance

The launch of an inquiry is no guarantee of legislative amendments or changes to enforcement processes, but it is evidence of an intention to address this policy issue.

Also in July 2018, the government published its response to a consultation on caste and equality law. It concluded that the way forward was to rely on emerging case-law rather than including caste as an aspect of race, as required under the Equality Act. To that end, a suitable legislative vehicle is being sought in order to repeal that duty.

We’re marking this as ‘in progress’. To move it to ‘done’ we’ll need to see that the concerns around enforcement which gave rise to the Women and Equalities Committee inquiry have been effectively tackled. Follow this policy for the latest developments.

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