Unison condemns new equality law clause

Trade
union Unison has condemned the inclusion of a clause in the new sexual
orientation equality regulations that gives faith-based employers the freedom
to sack lesbian and gay employees.

The
2003 Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, laid before
Parliament on 8 May 2003, contain exemptions for employers "with an ethos
based on religion or belief", allowing them to discriminate against
lesbians and gay men on the grounds of their sexual orientation.

Unison
general secretary, Dave Prentis, said: "Betrayal is the only word to
describe the way the Government has backtracked on this aspect of the new law.
Every time we have raised the issue of a possible exemption for religious
employers, we have been given assurances there would be no wide-ranging
provision to permit discrimination.

"What
could have been a genuinely positive piece of legislation to protect lesbians
and gay men at work has had the heart ripped out of it by the introduction of a
clause to mollify bigots.

"It
seems the Government believes that equality stops at the church gates. We are discussing
ways to challenge this flaw in the regulations."

This
is an issue that directly affects members who work for faith-based charities
and voluntary organisations. The regulations are being brought in as part of
the Government’s obligations under an EU directive, which requires member
states to develop equality legislation across race, disability, sexual
orientation, religion and age strands.

Unison
said that the Government’s ‘piecemeal development’ of the new laws has missed
the opportunity for a much wider- ranging debate and comprehensive
implementation of new equality legislation.

By Quentin Reade

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