Firms urged to prepare now for gender equality

Employers are being urged to start preparing for the biggest change in gender legislation in the past 30 years, as public bodies will soon be legally required to promote sexual equality.

The Gender Equality Bill is part of the wider Equality Bill due to come into force in April 2007 and the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) is asking public sector employers to consult on the rules over the next three months.

The law will require public bodies to completely eliminate sexual discrimination and promote equality across services, policies, recruitment and employment matters.

The EOC believes the Bill has the potential to transform local services as public authorities will need to consider the different needs of men and women when providing them.

Jenny Watson, chair of the EOC, urged employers to get involved in the consultation process now, so that the final laws are workable and able to deliver real benefits.

“We want to hear from users now so we can make the code of practice as practical, straightforward and user-friendly as possible. We would like to see wide participation in the consultation to ensure the new law fulfils its promise,” she said.

She hopes the laws will help reduce the gender pay gap and provide better public services. The rules could mean that public bodies will have to think about the needs of both sexes when planning transport routes, medical provisions and training.

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