The announcement follows a government-wide review of whether current legislation is achieving its aims. As part of the red tape challenge, members of the public, businesses and industry experts were invited to scrutinise the equality act. They put forward recommendations for regulations which could be simplified, scrapped or clarified.
Home secretary and minister for women and equalities Theresa May said:
‘Bureaucracy and prescription are not routes to equality. Over-burdening businesses benefits no one, and real change doesn’t come from telling people what to do.
‘Today’s announcement strikes the right balance between protecting people from discrimination and letting businesses get on with the job.’
The measures announced today include:
- Repealing third party harassment law, which will ensure employers are no longer liable for the harassment of an employee by a third party (for example, a customer). A consultation on this change is launched today.
- Reviewing the public Sector equality duty - a legal obligation on public bodies to consider the impact of their decisions on different groups - to establish whether it is operating as intended.
- Repealing the socio-economic duty - a legal obligation on public bodies to consider the impact of their decisions on social class.
- Tackling gold-plating and over-compliance by working with the British chambers of commerce to help small-and-medium-sized companies understand what they do and don’t need to do in order to comply with the equality act.
- Repealing employment tribunals’ ‘wider recommendations’ powers, which will remove the power of tribunals to recommend the introduction of, or changes to, policies that affect all of an employer’s staff - not just the employee who brought the case. A consultation on this change is launched today.
- Scrapping bureaucratic information-gathering procedures. Special procedures were meant to increase settlements and reduce employment tribunal cases. Instead, they have led to more bureaucracy. A consultation on scrapping these procedures is launched today.
The government also unveiled reforms to the equality and human rights commission (EHRC):
- Repealing unnecessary powers and duties. Some of the EHRC’s powers and duties under the equality act 2006 will be scrapped in order to help it focus on its core functions.
- Tighter financial controls. The EHRC will comply with government-wide spending rules - in particular, controls on recruitment, consultancy and marketing.
- Budget review. The EHRC’s budget was cut by over half as part of the 2010 spending review. There will now be a comprehensive review of the remainder of the EHRC’s budget, to be completed this autumn.
- New leadership. A new chairman and a new, smaller board will be recruited.
Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone said:
‘Since its creation the equality and human rights commission has struggled to deliver across its remit and has not demonstrated good value for money.
‘Our reforms will provide it with a stronger focus and make it more accountable, helping it become the valued and respected national institution it was always intended to be.’
Notes to editors
1. A copy of the government’s response to the EHRC reform consultation is available here - http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/equalities/equality-government/equality-human-rights-commission/
2. A copy of the third party harassment consultation is available here - http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/about-us/consultations/third-party-harassment/
3. A copy of the tribunals consultation is available here - http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/about-us/consultations/equality-act-wider-enforcement/
4. The red tape challenge was launched by the prime minister on 7 April 2011. It gives businesses and the public the chance to have their say on some of the more than 10,000 regulations that affect their everyday lives. The website is available at www.redtapechallenge.cabinetoffice.gov.uk
5. Overall, of just under 1500 regulations considered so far, the government has committed to scrap or improve well over 50 per cent - decisions that will bring real benefit to businesses, civil society organisations and individuals.
6. The challenge process does not include legislation or regulations falling within the responsibilities of the devolved administrations.