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UK government publishes controversial bill outlawing various forms of discrimination

[JURIST] The UK Government Equalities Office (GEO) [official website] on Monday published [press release] a controversial Equality Bill [materials] that seeks to eliminate gender, racial, age, and other forms of discrimination. The bill, which was introduced into the House of Commons [official website] Friday, would require businesses to report on pay for men and women, outlaw age discrimination, and synthesize various other pieces of anti-discrimination laws into a single piece of legislation. Minister for Women and Equality Harriet Harman [official profile] 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.
The bill has the support of many members of the ruling Labour Party, but has already been condemned [BBC report] by Conservative lawmakers as well as businesses. Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce [official website] David Frost said [press release], "This Bill will discourage job creation and make employers fearful of the recruitment process. We already know that half of small firms struggle to navigate employment law and this will just add to the problem."

The bill was initially proposed [JURIST report] in June. The UK has made increased efforts to combat discrimination in recent years. In January 2007, then-prime minister Tony Blair announced [JURIST report] that rules under a 2006 Equality Act protecting the rights of same-sex couples to adopt children [JURIST report] will apply without exception, denying special exemptions for faith-based adoption agencies opposed to same-sex unions or homosexuality. In October 2006, an official at the UK Commission for Racial Equality [official website] warned [JURIST report] that if communication about social differences does not improve in Britain, riots could erupt there in the wake of a religious dress [JURIST news archive] debate prompted by the suspension of a Muslim UK teacher for wearing a full-face veil in the classroom.

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