New discrimination powers

Employers accused of disability discrimination face a fresh barrage of
enforcement powers with the launch of the Disability Rights Commission this

As well as bringing tribunal cases under the Disability Discrimination Act,
the DRC will have the power to launch formal investigations and negotiate
legally enforceable written agreements with employers.

Chairman Bert Massie stressed that he does not want the body to be seen as a
litigious organisation. "That way, we would get minimal compliance. If we
can persuade people of the business, moral and humane case then they will do it
willingly," he said.

A major part of the body’s resources will go into information and advice
services including a web site featuring the most common problems faced by
employers and disabled people, and offering possible solutions.

Massie, formerly director of the Royal Association for Disability and
Rehabilitation, said he wants the commission to be helpful and be seen to be

Commented Massie, "I hope employers will feel comfortable about coming
to us. If they don’t then I want to know about that."

This month also sees Gurbux Singh appointed new chairman of the Commission
for Racial Equality. He replaces Sir Herman Ouseley, who left his post three
years into his second five-year term amid reports he was frustrated at the lack
of government action on discrimination.

A former chief executive of Haringey Borough Council in London, Singh also
said the Race Relations (Amendment) Bill, which will impose a legal duty on
public-sector employers to promote race equality, provides the basis for
significant progress in the commission’s work.

"Future progress is about sustained leadership, partnership and
accountability, as much as it is about the law," he said.

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