Early peek at Equality Bill suggests positive steps likely

Equalities minister Barbara Follett has given HR professionals an insight into how the new Equality Bill will look when its drafted in a few weeks’ time.

Follett told delegates at a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development diversity conference in London that the Bill will focus on four main ways of improving the equality of employment rights across all sections of society.

It will demand more transparency from employers; make diversity practices more important to winning government contracts; strengthen enforcement of the law; and encourage more positive action, she said.

“We are looking at positive action,” said Follett. “This is lawful action that helps members of under-represented groups get on level terms. We want to keep the merit principle but increase the number of circumstances in which employers can take positive action.”

She also hinted that the UK could follow the US in asking all firms bidding for government work to publish details of their diversity policies.

Prime minister Gordon Brown last week announced in his draft Queen’s Speech that the Equality Bill would be passed into law during the next parliamentary session. An initial draft is expected to be published next month.

Follett said the Bill was primarily aimed at simplifying the current raft of equalities legislation in the UK, and strengthening efforts to eradicate inequalities such as the gender pay gap, high levels of ethnic minority poverty and low rates of pay for disabled people.

In this clip employment lawyer Nicola Johnston tells Joe Glavina how the emphasis will be on positive action. That will mean not just having diversity policies in place but also being able to demonstrate that your equality house is in order.


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