Government delays response to court ruling that sex discrimation laws are flawed

The government’s response to a High Court ruling that it failed to properly implement the European Equal Treatment Directive within UK law is not expected to be made public until Monday (19 March).

A judge ordered trade and industry secretary Alistair Darling to explain how the government plans to remedy the situation.

The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) challenged the government’s sex discrimination regulations, arguing that women would not enjoy the full protection against harassment and pregnancy discrimination required by the original European directive, and that they could lose aspects of existing maternity rights already established in UK case law.

In judicial review proceedings, Mr Justice Burton ruled the definition of harassment in the regulations was too narrow, and did not reflect the broad protection in the directive.

For example, the regulations gave no apparent protection to women harassed by clients, even when their employer knows of the harassment and could take steps to prevent it, yet fails to do so.

Some lawyers have predicted a flood of tribunal claims from female employees in the hospitality sectors who are particularly vulnerable to harassment from customers and the public.

The CBI said it would have to look at the judgment “carefully” and fully consider its implications.

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