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Britain's New Equality Bill Fairer and Stronger

  • Published: 2009-04-27 (Revised/Updated 2014-01-27) : Author: Government Equalities Office
  • Synopsis: The Equality Bill new laws will narrow the gap between rich and poor outlaw age discrimination and strengthen Britains anti-discrimination legislation.

Harriet Harman today published the Equality Bill which will make Britain stronger, fairer and more equal.

The Equality Bill sets out groundbreaking new laws which will help narrow the gap between rich and poor; require business to report on gender pay; outlaw age discrimination[1]; and will significantly strengthen Britain's anti-discrimination legislation.

The Bill will simplify the law which, over the last four decades, has become complex and difficult to navigate. Nine major pieces of legislation and around 100 other measures will be replaced by a single Act written in plain English to make it easier for individuals and employers to understand their legal rights and obligations.

Despite considerable progress since 1997, inequality and discrimination still exist which is why the law needs to be strengthened.

Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality, said:

"The Equality Bill is part of building a strong fair future for Britain out of the downturn. That means fairness and opportunity. Especially in tougher economic times, we need to face the problems fairly and we need to look for a fairer future.

"Though we have ensured new rights and opportunities for disabled people, for women, black and Asian people and older people - there is still unfairness and discrimination to tackle. And this Bill will take the action necessary to tackle it.

"Today we publish our tough new Equality Bill, promised in our manifesto, building on our actions over the last 10 years. It will make Britain a more equal place, and help us build a stronger economy and fairer society for the future.

"We will shine the spotlight in every workplace on the hidden pay discrimination against women.

"We will let employers have the right to choose to diversify their team - with positive action.

"And we will end the last lawful discrimination - which is against older people."

"But we know that inequality is grounded not just in gender, race, disability, age and sexual orientation - but also by class. Your family or the place you were born. So we will require public bodies when they make strategic decisions to help narrow the gap between rich and poor.

"If there are unequal societies marred by prejudice and discrimination, then people feel excluded, the economy does not flourish, communities feel resentful, so you don't have a society which is at ease with itself.

"That's why equality is vital - not only important for the individual, but for society and the economy."

James Purnell, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said:

"The Government wants to make sure each person gets the help and support they need to overcome their barriers to work, fulfill their potential and build a better life for themselves and their families.

"The Equality Bill will work hand in hand with our welfare reforms to ensure everyone, whether disabled or non-disabled, young or older, is given the opportunity to make a full contribution to society.

"We will not leave people to cope on their own, without the help they need, especially those people least able to compete in a downturn."

The Equality Bill will strengthen our equality law by:

Vera Baird, Solicitor General and Minister who is taking the Equality Bill through the House, said:

"Society is better when it's equal. It's about getting the best out of everybody by making opportunity available whatever characteristics they have.

"The Government is committed to creating a more equal society with fair chances for everyone, that's why we have today published the Equality Bill, which will clarify and strengthen the law.

"Employers will no longer be able to rely on keeping their pay structure secret. We will ban secrecy clauses in employment contracts, so that women can challenge unfair pay. And we will encourage businesses to report on gender pay, but let us make no mistake: if voluntary measures do not work, we will take stronger measures to ensure equal pay for women."

Maria Eagle MP, Deputy Minister for Women and Equality said,

"Everyone has the right to be treated fairly and to have the opportunity to fulfill their potential.

"The Equality Bill announced today is a major step towards tackling unfairness and discrimination and will make Britain stronger, fairer and more equal.

"It significantly simplifies legislation, to make it easier for individuals and employers to understand their legal rights and obligations. It also strengthens the law. Employers will no longer be able to hide gender pay discrimination and public bodies will have to seriously consider how they can actively close the gap between rich and poor."

Community Cohesion Minster Sadiq Khan said:

"I welcome the Equalities Bill it will strengthen and simplify the current law, setting out the rights of individuals and groups.

"In the current climate it is more crucial than ever to have safeguards in place to protect our communities. Discrimination of any type should not be tolerated. The bill will aim to remove barriers of opportunity for the most vulnerable in our communities and outline guidance that employers and individuals can take forward.

"As a government we have a role in ensuring that the diversity which is a real strength of this country is successfully managed and the bill should pave the way to achieve these plans".

More details of the Equality Bill are in "A Fairer Future" which can be viewed at:

What is in the Equality Bill

Everyone in society, not just the poor, is adversely affected by inequality. Inequality leads to shorter, unhealthier, and unhappier lives, and increases violence and social problems.[5] And diversity leads to increased productivity and profitability. Equal societies benefit everyone.

The Equality Bill will:

Social Economic Duty

Gender pay reports

Banning age discrimination

Positive action

Private members clubs

New Equality Duty on the public sector


Strengthening employment tribunals

Protecting Carers From Discrimination


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