Equalities Committee launches inquiry into enforcement of discrimination laws


3 mins

Posted on 01 Aug 2018

The Women and Equalities Committee, the Parliamentary Select Committee tasked with examining the Government's performance on equalities issues, has launched an inquiry into the enforcement of the Equality Act 2010.  

Enforcing discrimination laws 

Individuals can take legal action to enforce their right not to be discriminated against.  In addition, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has enforcement powers, including carrying out investigations where unlawful discrimination is suspected, issuing unlawful act notices where it finds discrimination, drawing up action plans to avoid repetition or continuation of discrimination and seeking court injunctions to stop discrimination.  It is also able to assist an individual in bringing a claim and can intervene in legal proceedings where important issues are at stake. 

Problems with enforcement 

The Committee has previously identified that individuals face difficulties enforcing their rights and has questioned the effectiveness of the EHRC in challenging discrimination.  Previous recommendations it has made include longer time limits for bringing pregnancy discrimination and sexual harassment claims, increased financial penalties, greater use by the EHRC of its enforcement powers and greater action by other regulators, such as the Financial Conduct Authority, Ofsted and the Health and Safety Executive, to tackle discrimination.  

Improving compliance

The Committee is now seeking views on what more can be done to achieve widespread compliance with the Equality Act 2010 (EqA). It is asking for views in writing on:

  • How easy it is for people to understand and enforce their rights 
  • How well enforcement action under the EqA works as a mechanism for achieving widescale change
  • How effective and accessible tribunals and other legal means of redress are, and what changes would improve those processes
  • How effective current remedies for findings of discrimination are in achieving change, and what alternative or additional penalties should be available
  • The effectiveness of the EHRC as an enforcement body, including:
    • Whether its powers are sufficient and effective
    • Whether it is using its powers well
    • Whether changes are needed to its approach to using its enforcement powers and the way it identifies and selects legal cases to lead or support
    • Whether it uses enforcement action appropriately and effectively as part of its wider strategies for advancing equality
    • Whether its role as an enforcer is widely known and understood and acts as a deterrent to discrimination.
  • Whether there are other models of enforcement that could be a more effective means of achieving widespread compliance with the EqA, either overall or in specific sectors.

Responses can be sent using the written submission form.  The deadline for replying is Friday 5 October 2018.

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