The Equality Act has gained Royal Assent, paving the way for a new ‘one-stop shop’ offering advice to employers and individuals on their rights and duties under discrimination law.
Under the Act, the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) will bring together the Disability Rights Commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission from October 2007. The Commission for Racial Equality will join in 2009, putting expertise on equality, diversity and human rights in one place.
The CEHR will be required to produce a regular ‘equality health check’ for the UK and to work with individuals, communities, businesses and public services to find new, more effective ways to combat discrimination.
The Act will introduce a new ‘gender duty’ that will require public bodies to take account of the different needs of men and women to ensure equality of opportunity when preparing policies or providing services.
Questions remain over whether a single equality Act should be developed to bring all the present discrimination law together and ensure that all the groups covered by the CEHR have the same degree of protection.
This idea is popular with the public sector, but the CBI said that employers would strongly oppose such a move.