The Equality Bill has been criticised as poorly timed and “bureaucratic” by opposition politicians.
Published yesterday, the bill replaces nine diversity laws in an attempt to make it easier for organisations to promote equality in the workplace. Among its requirements, employers with more than 250 staff will be forcedto report their gender pay gap from 2013 if sufficient progress on reporting has not already been made.
However, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg feared that the timing of the Equality Bill would hinder employers struggling with the recession.
“The bill has to start somewhere, but if it’s in the eye of an economic storm like it is now, then it should start slowly for fear of delaying the economic recovery,” he told Personnel Today.
Many of the measures in the Bill, including the ban on secrecy clauses to prevent staff from talking about pay, and using public procurement to promote equality, will come into force in autumn 2010, if the Bill succeeds in its current form.
But Ken Clarke, shadow business secretary, also criticised the timing of the Bill. He added: “This is no time for the government to be introducing rather pointless, bureaucratic legislation.”
The Bill was defended by the government as necessary to improve the gender pay gap, which currently stands at 17.1% for full-time hourly roles.
Harriet Harman, minister for women and equality, said: “The Equality Bill will make Britain a more equal place, and help us build a stronger economy and fairer society for the future.”