The Government Equalities Office has published a public consultation on caste discrimination, following a 2013 legislative option to add “caste” to the definition of “race” under the Equality Act 2010.
The Act protects individuals against direct and indirect race discrimination, and harassment and victimisation on the ground of race in employment, as well as in education and the provision of services.
The consultation asks whether or not it is necessary to specifically add caste to the definition of race under the Act.
Case law from the Employment Appeal Tribunal provides that the Act is already capable of protecting against caste discrimination as it covers characteristics determined by descent.
The consultation raises a potential concern around the explicit addition of caste to the Act – that it could generate more awareness of caste-based identity within British society.
For example, if the Government was required to collect caste data as part of its public sector equality duty, this could be considered overly intrusive and potentially heighten caste consciousness.
Alternatively, the Government could be required to have due regard to eliminating caste discrimination without being required to take other action involving the collection of caste information.
Update (5 July 2017)
The Government has extended this caste discrimination consultation by eight weeks. The closing date is now 18 September 2017.
Qian Mou, employment law editor at XpertHR said: “A benefit of explicitly including caste discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 would be to capture any forms of caste discrimination not related to descent. The Government has said that it is not aware of examples of such discrimination so the consultation would be a way to elicit examples, if they exist.”
Although the Government had intended for legislation on caste discrimination to be implemented by early 2015, no consultation was held due to the legislative timetable and the 2015 general election.
The consultation closes on 18 July 2017.