First round in Parliament on the Equalities Bill

Today’s the day! Or should have been. The Equalities Bill ”statement’ today in the House of Common chamber came after loads of leaks and media on the subject.

I can only assume that Ms Harman wanted the news agenda to herself – avoiding opposition criticism. Which is a shame – as the media have made great hay with the bit which will allow an employer who at interview has several equally qualified applicants – give the job to the one they feel fills a gap in the make up of their workforce. So – for example – if there was under-representation of male teachers in a primary school – and a woman and man both were equally qualified to get the job – the employer could decide to give the job to the man to improve the under-represented groups representation – without being sued. That’s the point. Previously it was against the law.

This is the bit that (in garbled and misleading form) grabbed the media attention, but the media have pretty much ignored the really good bit – that at the eleventh hour the Government included tackling age discrimination both in extending the equality duty on the public sector but also applying it to the provision of goods and services. Hurrah!

This is something that should have happened years and years ago – and you might ask – what changed the Government’s mind at the last moment? My current theory is – given that Labour may not be the Government when the costs of implementation come in – they decided to get it right as a sort of legacy – a farewell gift to equality and fairness. Well – I don’t know really – but hurrah! Older people have had the worst of treatment in the equality agenda – so three cheers!

However, the hawks in the cabinet have clearly won when it comes to tackling the private sector over their equality practises. The Government has baulked at any mandatory pay audits – and Harriet did not answer me when I asked at what point in the voluntary, softly softly approach to asking companies to publish their wages for employees so we can see the truth, the measures would become compulsory.

And there was lots more – but over the next seven months – we will be pushing the agenda as hard as we can. And I expect the Government to include many of our ‘asks’!

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