TUC bids to close gay discrimination loophole

The
TUC is co-ordinating a union-backed legal challenge to new regulations which
could allow pension schemes and religious organisations to continue to
discriminate against lesbian and gay workers.

Seven
of the TUC’s affiliated unions (including Amicus-MSF, Unison and the National
Union of Teachers) have lodged papers with the High Court because they believe
the regulations – which come into force on 1 December and which seek to outlaw
discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in employment and work-based
training – are not being implemented as required by the original EU Employment
Equality Framework Directive.

The
unions argue that aspects of the Government’s Employment Equality (Sexual
Orientation) Regulations 2003, which are meant to give lesbian and gay people
additional legal protection, will actually end up discriminating against them.

The
union legal challenge is based on two key points of the proposed UK law which
relate to people working for religious organisations.

TUC
general secretary Brendan Barber said: "The Government’s new sexual
orientation regulations as a whole will make a real difference to gay people,
giving them real legal protection at work for the first time.

"But
it is unfortunate the Government has decided to exempt those working for
religious organisations and wants to bar lesbians and gay men from receiving
benefits from certain pension schemes.

"This
is a good law made less effective by two small, but significant restrictions.
If gay workers are to achieve true equality with their colleagues, the
Government needs to scrap the offending clauses."

By Quentin Reade

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