The three existing public sector equality duties should be replaced by an overarching single duty that also includes age, sexual orientation and religion, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
The government’s consultation on proposals for a Single Equality Bill, which would put all the law on equality and discrimination in one place, closed last week.
In its response to the consultation, the CIPD said there was support in the public sector for a single duty to promote race, disability and gender equality.
“The government needs to be seen to lead the way and not lag behind the good practice of leading local authorities, agencies and departments where there has been a pragmatic approach to tackling the overly complex situation,” it said.
Extending any single duty to include age, sexual orientation and religion was essential, as any exclusion “would be difficult to justify”, said the CIPD. The government’s failure to include these equality strands in a public duty would send out the wrong messages and create a “hierarchy of discrimination”, it said.
“To exclude age as a public duty would potentially disengage large parts of the electorate, but its introduction would support reporting, measurement and understanding of our ageing population,” the institute added.
Susan McNally, head of HR at Newham Council and lead officer on diversity at the Public Sector People Managers’ Association, said an extended single duty was a good idea. “The equalities strands are all interlinked and it would make it simpler to have them all rolled into one duty,” she said.
However, the CIPD warned that the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights could be faced with an “overwhelming burden” if made solely responsible for enforcing compliance with any new duty.
Other public service inspectorate bodies should have a role to play in monitoring compliance, the CIPD added.