Review of the Equality Act

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2022 National Delegate Conference
22 February 2022

Conference notes that the Equality Act 2010 has now been in place for over ten years and despite both the House of Lords and the United Nations stating that it fails disabled people there are still no plans for a review. The government’s recent Disability Strategy, published on 31 July last year, is a very thin document made up of re-heated promises and very little additional funding. Even worse, as far as Disabled Members are concerned, it does not include a commitment to updating the Equality Act.

Unsurprisingly, the government’s Disability Strategy has now been found to be illegal and based on an illegal consultation.

As one of the founder members of the coalition which has developed it, UNISON believes the new Disability and Employment Charter should replace the government’s discredited disability strategy and be the basis for our campaigning.

Since the Equality Act’s implementation the world has changed significantly with Covid-19 being just one major event that has impacted on the lives of our Disabled Members.

Since Brexit, equality legislation that came from the European Union has been transferred into domestic law but there is no guarantee that this won’t be repealed as the government review their position EU law.

Some sections of the Equality Act such as dual discrimination have never made it onto the statute books leaving some Disabled Members at increased risk of discrimination. A 2021 government response to a consultation on sexual harassment in the workplace mentioned looking at protections against third party harassment in the workplace by customers, contractors and members of the public for example, but no concrete steps have been taken and it seems unlikely this will happen any time soon. In the same consultation response, the government rejected calls to reintroduce the repealed power of Employment Tribunals to make broader recommendations such as requiring an employer to make reasonable adjustments.

Other groups, such as carers, still have no legal rights or protection against discrimination under the Equality Act except in relation to discrimination by association.

Conference calls on National Executive Council to work with the National Disabled Members Committee and Labour Link to:

1)Campaign for a full independent review of the Equality Act 2010 which involves meaningful consultation with disabled people and considers whether there are other groups, such as carers, who need to be offered additional protection;

2)Lobby for the parts of the Equality Bill that were never implemented to be revisited, reviewed and brought into law;

3)Support the TUC campaign to fully implement all Equality Act provisions including the socio-economic duty, dual and multiple discrimination and the publication of impact assessments;

4)Campaign for the introduction of protection against third party harassment in the workplace as a matter of urgency;

5)Campaign for the Disability and Employment Charter to be recognised as the starting point for radically improving the government’s Disability Strategy, which should be based on robust consultation with disabled people and should include improved support for disabled people to enforce their rights, including the right to reasonable adjustments, provided by the Equality Act.