Proposals for an equal opportunities shake-up

A one-stop equalities watchdog is being planned as part of the largest equal
opportunities shake-up in 25 years.

Under plans proposed by minister for women Barbara Roche, gender, race and
disabilities commissions would be combined.

Roche said combining the commissions would increase effectiveness and
provide a single point of contact for both employees and employers.

The Cabinet Office is to conduct a six-month study and publish detailed
plans in the autumn.

As the Government is in the process of introducing legislation to protect
people from discrimination against sexual orientation, religion and age, these
would also be included in the commission.

Employer groups and discrimination watchdogs have welcomed the announcement,
but they warn any legislation needs to be carefully worded.

Dianah Worman, the CIPD’s diversity adviser, is in favour of the change.
"We welcome these proposals and have been campaigning for this approach
for almost a decade. A one-stop shop would clarify the picture, be more
efficient and avoid some of the duplication that occurs under the existing
system," she said.

But Bert Massie, chairman of the Disability Rights Commission, is concerned
a single commission may weaken disabled people’s rights. "We must ensure
disabled people’s voices continue to be heard and their rights enforced,"
he said.

By Quentin Reade

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Gurbux Singh, chairman, Commission for Racial Equality

"We are keen to ensure the proposals work with UK
legislation to create a consistent approach to race equality issues. It is
vital the enforcement role of the CRE and the other equity commissions is
safeguarded."

Julie Mellor, chairwoman, Equal
Opportunities Commission

"I welcome the lead the Government has taken in developing
a broader vision of what equality means and how it can benefit us all. We have
to make it easier for employers to deliver equality and capitalise on the talents
of their staff."

Sam Mercer, campaign director,
Employers’ Forum on Age

"It is a good idea in principal. It makes sense for
employers to only have one body to deal with. The issue is getting the
weighting right between race, gender, disability, age, and sexual orientation."

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