POWERFUL NEW EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS BODY GETS THE GO-AHEAD

Press Release – Department of Trade and Industry
Feb. 17 2006

A powerful new body to put equality at the heart of modern Britain got the go-ahead today as the Equality Act gained Royal Assent.

Individuals experiencing discrimination and prejudice on the basis of race, gender, disability, age, religion and belief or sexual orientation will have easier access to help and support and businesses will have improved advice and information through the single Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) from October 2007.

The CEHR will work with individuals, communities, businesses and public services to find new, more effective ways to give everyone in society the chance to achieve their full potential.

The CEHR will bring together the work of the Disability Rights Commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission from October 2007; and that of the Commission for Racial Equality from 2009, putting expertise on equality, diversity and human rights in one place.

For the first time the equality areas of age, religion and belief and sexual orientation will come under the remit of a single equality body, as well as continuing work that has been done previously to tackle racism and other forms of discrimination. It will have a better range of powers to enforce legislation flexibly and promote equality for all.

The Commission will also promote awareness and understanding of human rights and encourage good practice by public authorities in meeting their Human Rights Act obligations.

The CEHR will be required to produce a regular ‘equality health check’ for Britain and to work with individuals, communities, businesses and public services to find new, more effective ways to give everyone in society the chance to achieve their full potential.

The Act will introduce a new ‘gender duty’ which will require public bodies to take account of the different needs of men and women to ensure equality of opportunity when preparing policies or providing services.

The Act will outlaw discrimination on grounds of religion or belief in providing goods, facilities or services, education or rented accommodation.

Meg Munn, Deputy Minister for Women and Equality, said:

“The Equality Act marks a transformation in the way modern Britain tackles discrimination.

“The CEHR will be a powerful body dedicated to fighting discrimination, predudice and inequality and promoting fairness for everyone. The new Commission will bring together the expertise and knowledge of the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission. It will also have new powers to champion equality, diversity and human rights across the UK.”

The purpose of the Equality Act is to:

  • establish the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) and to define its purpose and functions;
  • make unlawful discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief in the provision of goods, facilities, services, premises, education and the exercise of public functions;
  • create a duty on public authorities to promote equality of opportunity between men and women (the gender duty) and to prohibit sex discrimination in the exercise of public functions;
  • provide powers to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods, facilities and services, etc.

The duties and powers of the CEHR include:

  • a new duty to consult with stakeholders to ensure all groups have an opportunity to participate and engage in its work;
  • a new duty to monitor progress on equality, human rights and good relations between communities, through publishing a regular ‘state of the nation’ report;
  • a new duty to promote good relations between and within communities, across all sections of society;
  • an explicit role to combat prejudice and work to reduce crime affecting particular communities, including new powers to monitor hate crimes; and
  • a regional presence in England, Scotland and Wales.
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