Doubts have been raised over when the Equality Act will be introduced after the Government Equalities Office (GEO) removed the October 2010 date for implementation from its website.
The Equality Act received Royal Assent on 8 April and the bulk of the legislation was due to be implemented in October.
But the GEO’s website no longer displays that date, and a fact sheet on the Act just states: “The provisions in the Equality Act will come into force at different times to allow time for the people and organisations affected by the new laws to carefully prepare for them.”
A spokeswoman at the GEO could not rule out that the implementation of the majority of the Equality Act could now be delayed under the new government.
She said: “An announcement on scheduling for implementation of the Equality Act will be made in due course.”
Legal experts said there was no time restriction on a government to implement an Act after it had received Royal Assent.
Rachel Krys, director of the Employers Forum on Age, told Personnel Today she was “very surprised” that the date had been withdrawn.
She said: “At the moment employers are getting ready to operate with the new Act in force. If it gets delayed it would lead to a lot of undoing of work.
“If the government is going to change the timings it needs to tell people sooner rather than later, rather than just removing the date from its website.”
But Krys added she would welcome the opportunity to have another debate about clauses relating to religion and beliefs in the Act, and to try to remove the default retirement age through the new equality legislation.
Clio Springer, a senior employment law editor at XpertHR, said: “The coalition government could, potentially, delay the implementation of the Act indefinitely, simply by not making commencement orders. However, text in the factsheet suggests that the government recognises the positive benefits of the Act and, presumably, it will bring it into effect in the not-too-distant future.”
The public sector equality duty, socio-economic duty and combined discrimination were due to come into effect in April 2011, while the ban on age discrimination in the provision of goods and services and public functions was due to be implemented in 2012. Gender pay gap reporting was set to be introduced in 2013 if not enough progress had been made voluntarily.