A new approach is needed to tackle discrimination and disadvantage in the UK, the final Equalities Review report has recommended.
The inquiry that produced the report, led by Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, proposes a 10-step programme to help make the UK a fairer, more equal country at ease with its diversity.
It recommends new flexibility for employers to use positive action – which will allow firms to assist people from previously excluded ethnic minority groups to compete on equal terms with other applicants.
Employers will breathe a sign of relief as the report does not argue for positive discrimination.
Phillips said that unless efforts to produce change are drastically stepped up, it could take until 2085 to close the pay gap between men and women; and on current trends, the employment ‘penalty’ facing disabled people may never be eliminated.
The report’s recommendations include:
- a new framework to measure progress towards equality, including an ‘Equalities Scorecard’ which employers can use to get a true picture of equality gaps
- a broader positive duty for public sector bodies to tackle inequality – both as service providers and as employers
- a simpler legislative framework which will enable groups as well as individuals to take action
- a more sophisticated and proportionate enforcement regime, overseen by the Commission for Equality and Human Rights
- targeted action against persistent inequalities in education, employment, health, and crime and criminal justice.
The review recommends that the commission, which will become operational in October 2007, should report on progress against the 10 steps to greater equality every three years.
Phillips said: “The past few years have seen inequality reduced in many ways. But as the tide of disadvantage recedes, the rocks of persistent inequality have been revealed. People face inequality in many forms – not only on the grounds of race, gender or disability but also sexual orientation, age, gender identity, and religion or belief.
“They struggle because of outdated attitudes and systemic failures. It will take many years to remove the remaining barriers to equality. In some cases, unless we accelerate progress, it is unlikely that disadvantage will ever be overcome. We have to act now.”
Communities minister Ruth Kelly welcomed the review. “This review makes clear that further progress will not happen without government action – working with others, including communities and businesses, we must remain prepared to take the tough decisions needed,” she said.
“Trevor Phillip’s report rightly challenges us to go further. I look forward to analysing the review in detail and to responding formally on behalf of the government in due course.”
The government response to the review is due in autumn 2007.