COMMONS

Enforcement of the Equality Act: Inquiry launched

30 July 2018

The Women and Equalities Committee launches an inquiry into the enforcement of the Equality Act 2010 – legislation which is designed to “provide a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all”.

Widespread problems with enforcement

Individuals can take legal action to enforce their right not to be discriminated against, mostly through employment tribunals and county courts.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) also has duties and powers to enforce the Act and it has stated that it wishes to become a more ‘muscular’ regulator.

However, the Committee’s work in a range of areas has shown that individuals have difficulties enforcing their rights under the Act and has questioned the effectiveness of the EHRC: inquiries on pregnancy and maternity discrimination, transgender equality, disability and the built environment, workplace dress codes, older people and employment and sexual harassment in the workplace all identified widespread problems with enforcement.

Previous recommendations

The Committee has already made recommendations to improve the enforcement of the Equality Act in specific areas. These include:

  • extending time limits for bringing certain employment cases (pregnancy & maternity and sexual harassment reports)
  • adequate financial penalties (workplace dress codes and sexual harassment reports)
  • increased use by the EHRC of its enforcement powers (workplace dress codes, older workers)
  • greater action by regulators to tackle discrimination in the organisations they oversee (pregnancy and maternity, sexual harassment in the workplace)

The Committee now wants to know what more needs to be done to achieve widespread compliance with the Equality Act 2010 for all those with rights under it.

Send us your views

The Committee calls for written evidence on:

  • How easy it is for people to understand and enforce their rights under the Equality Act
  • How well enforcement action under the Equality Act works as a mechanism for achieving widescale change
  • How effective and accessible tribunals and other legal means of redress under the Equality Act are, and what changes would improve those processes
  • How effective current remedies for findings of discrimination are in achieving change, and what alternative or additional penalties should be available;
  • The effectiveness of the Equality and Human Rights Commission as an enforcement body, including:
    • Whether the powers the Commission has are sufficient and effective;
    • Whether the Commission is using those powers well;
    • Whether changes are needed to the Commission’s approach to using its enforcement powers as set out in its policies (such as the strategic litigation policy and compliance and enforcement policy) or as implemented in practice, and the way it identifies and selects legal cases to lead or support;
    • Whether the Commission uses enforcement action appropriately and effectively as part of its wider strategies for advancing equality;
    • Whether the Commission’s role as an enforcer is widely known and understood and acts as a deterrent to discrimination.
  • Whether there are other models of enforcement, in the UK or other countries, that could be a more effective means of achieving widespread compliance with the Equality Act 2010, either overall or in specific sectors.

Send your submission using the written submission form. The deadline is Friday 5 October 2018.

Please note that the Committee cannot look at individual cases or accept submissions about cases that are currently before the Courts.

Written submissions should focus on the enforcement issues set out in the terms of reference.

This could include, for example, barriers faced when trying to bring a case, but it should not include detailed descriptions of individual cases themselves.

Submissions that do not address the issues set out in the terms of reference may not be accepted by the Committee.

Please contact the Committee staff at womeqcom@parliament.uk if you have any questions about this

Inquiry provides opportunity for a systematic review

Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Maria Miller MP, said:

“Many of our inquiries inevitably focus on the problems with enforcement of equality legislation and critique the role of the EHRC.

This inquiry will provide the opportunity for a more systematic review of the causes and identify possible solutions.

We want to look at whether the Equality Act creates an unfair burden on individual people to enforce their right not to be discriminated against. How easy is it for people to understand and enforce their rights? How effective is enforcement action? Are tribunals accessible and remedies for findings of discrimination effective? Is the EHRC able to do its job properly? Those are just some of the questions we are seeking to answer.

I would encourage people to submit evidence to our inquiry if they are able to provide more information on those points.”

Further information

Image: Parliamentary Copyright

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