The Equality Bill

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2009 National Disabled Members' Conference
9 July 2009

This Conference welcomes the Equality Bill as a consolidation of existing equality legislation, making provision for levelling up across characteristic strands: age, disability, gender, gender identity, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation. We also applaud the work UNISON has undertaken as a senior stakeholder in discussions with government, particularly on aspects related to:

1.Indirect discrimination

2.Discrimination by Perception

3.Discrimination by Association

4.The relationship between poverty and social disadvantage

5.Some strengthened protection from discrimination against disabled people

6.Provisions that should offer some improvements during the procurement process

7.Reserved electoral shortlists to promote disabled people in public life

The Bill however contains many flaws that will perpetuate the discrimination that disabled people face in that:

a)It continues to view disabled people as the subject of their medical conditions rather than within a social model.

b)Its proposals do not revert to protections afforded to disabled people prior to the Lewisham v Malcolm case

c)The Bill’s provisions are essentially remedial rather than preventative

d)The revised definition of a disabled person will perpetuate and legitimise discrimination against those disabled people who fall short of the definition

e)There are no specific provisions for disabled children

f)It fails to deal comprehensively with intersectional discrimination and only makes provision for discrimination on the basis of two of the characteristic strands.

g)It does not take account of genetic predisposition

h)There are no explicit rights for people who are linguistic minorities, for example sign language users

i)There are exemptions in relation to disability and immigration and the armed force personnel

j) It offers limited pay auditing in relation to disability and race.

We commend UNISON for the long, hard campaigning work it has undertaken to secure full and comprehensive legislative protection from disability discrimination. It is clear that the Equality Bill will not include enough strategy to liberate disabled people from discrimination that results in social exclusions, poverty and lower life opportunities.

This conference calls upon the National Disabled Members Committee to continue to provide UNISON with advice and guidance in order that the flaws in points a) to j) above can be remedied through lobbying Members of Parliament, Government and Ministers for legislative change during this Parliament.