[JURIST] Officials from the UK Government Equalities Office (GEO) [official website] introduced a new equality bill [bill framework, PDF; BBC Q/A] Thursday designed to combat discrimination based on age or gender. Equalities Minister Harriet Harman told [statement, PDF] the House of Commons that 40 years of anti-discrimination laws have not sufficiently reduced inequality in the UK:
This package will see us make further progress towards a fair and equal society. A single statute to replace the complex web of legislation that has grown up over the years will make it easier for people to know their rights and their obligations.
The bill framework focuses on transparency in company operations, with a provision requiring companies to report regularly on their employee make-up and to allow internal discussion of salaries, which is currently prohibited under UK law. The bill will also provide for an increased role for the Equality and Human Rights Commission [official website], a non-departmental public body established by the Equality Act 2006 [text] to work toward eliminating discrimination, and will give employment tribunals wider discretion in proposing recommendations for companies that violate the bill. BBC News has more.
The UK has made increased efforts to combat discrimination in recent years. 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. In January 2007, then-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair announced [JURIST report] that rules under the Equality Act protecting same-sex couples' rights to adopt children [JURIST report] will apply without exception, denying special exemptions for faith-based adoption agencies opposed to same-sex unions or homosexuality.