Red Tape Challenge: Equality Act 2010
Posted Wednesday 20 April 2011
As part of the its plans to abolish red tape, the Government is looking at the Equality Act and have asked people to comment on whether the Equality Act 2010 should be entirely scrapped. Apart from the question itself being misleading, critical comments posted on the site show that we are still a long way from creating a level playing field for people with disabilities.
The Equality Act is an essential piece of primary legislation which brings together legal duties aimed at preventing discrimination – on grounds of sex, race and disability as well as many other ‘protected characteristics’.
Some of these provisions have been part of UK law for over 40 years. As a fair society we must safeguard it to ensure equality for all. We are committed to doing so under the EU Equal Treatment Directive 2000/78 and under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The Act was passed by parliament in April 2010 with extensive cross-party support, after extensive debate. In asking the question whether the Act should simply be ‘scrapped altogether’, the website is seriously misleading, as our obligations under EU and international law mean that it cannot be repealed or substantively changed in such an informal way.
Happily, many people who have commented so far share our view.
However, some of the critical responses on the Government’s website show the prejudices that disabled people still face. The Equality Act’s attempts to take those last few steps towards a level playing field for all – like identifying occasions when positive discrimination may be appropriate – are being attacked.
But critics overlook the fundamental safeguards in the Act – so just as a man should be appointed ahead of a less well qualified woman, a disabled applicant should only succeed if no non-disabled candidate is better suited to the role.
The fact is that currently there is no level playing field, as fewer than 4 in 10 employers would take on someone with a mental health problem and 40 per cent view workers with mental ill health as a significant risk.
We are proud of the Equality Act’s measures to help make sure that disabled job applicants have a better chance of being selected on merit. This includes the new restrictions on the use of pre-employment health questionnaires, which were previously used to screen out people with hidden disabilities during recruitment.
Mind will fight to ensure all these crucial protections remain in place - please help us by adding your comments to the Red Tape Challenge website.
The Equality Act must stay as it is and should be regarded as a positive step in outlawing discrimination and ensuring equality for all.
Pauline Dall, Head of Legal
Commenting is now closed.