Despite decades of anti-discrimination law, inequality still exists for millions of workers. The statistics lay bare the extent of the problem: white men earn up to 25% more than black men in similar roles women working full-time suffer a 17% pay gap from their male counterparts and non-disabled workers receive about 10% more than their disabled colleagues.
Yet critics have argued the government's latest effort to examine equality enforcement, the Discrimination Law Review, will do little to change private sector attitudes to tackling discrimination and that it weakens what public authorities must do to deliver equality.
Under the proposals, businesses will not be legally obliged to carry out equal pay audits or to monitor and report on their equality practices. The public sector, too, will have no specific statutory requirement to consider equality in contracts with the private sector.
Instead, the review lists voluntary ideas to tackle discrimination, such as an optional 'equality checklist'. But will things ever really change without introducing compulsory measures? If companies are not forced to review and improve their equality practices, will it ever be a priority for them to do so?
London mayor Ken Livingstone has criticised the review for "failing to set out proposals to tackle the reality of discrimination". Speaking at an industry seminar last week, he said "much more powerful enforcement" was needed to address "entrenched and systematic" inequality in society.
"The Green Paper would weaken key levers for equality in the public sector, while doing nothing to tackle discrimination in the private sector. More meaningful, change-orientated laws and enforcement are needed if unequal pay is to be eradicated," he said.
Livingstone also condemned the government for failing to impose a specific duty on public bodies to check private sector equality practices during procurement, which the review argued was already included in overall equality duties.