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Select Committee launching inquiry into enforcement of the Equality Act

Daphne
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Women and Equalities Committee has launched an inquiry  calling for written evidence on -

- How easy it is for people to understand and enforce their rights under the Equality Act
- How well enforcement action under the Equality Act works as a mechanism for achieving widescale change
- How effective and accessible tribunals and other legal means of redress under the Equality Act 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 Equality and Human Rights Commission as an enforcement body, including:
  o Whether the powers the Commission has are sufficient and effective;
  o Whether the Commission is using those powers well;
  o Whether changes are needed to the Commission’s approach to using its enforcement powers as set out in its policies (such as the strategic litigation policy and compliance and enforcement policy) or as implemented in practice, and the way it identifies and selects legal cases to lead or support;
  o Whether the Commission uses enforcement action appropriately and effectively as part of its wider strategies for advancing equality.
  o Whether the Commission’s role as an enforcer is widely known and understood and acts as a deterrent to discrimination.
- Whether there are other models of enforcement, in the UK or other countries, that could be a more effective means of achieving widespread compliance with the Equality Act 2010, either overall or in specific sectors.

phewitt15
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Welfare Rights / Accrington / Lancashire County Council

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This is interesting, I reported the DWP to the equality commission as they haven’t published current equality objectives and as a public body they must publish objectives every 4 years, commission agreed they had the duty to publish but that enforcement was limited (paraphrasing)
The DWP had the page showing the 2012 equality objectives stating it had to publish every 4 years and so in late 2017 I put a comment on the “anything wrong with this page” bit,  I put ” please can you show me where the current objectives are published as these are over 4 years old” I got an email saying the page had been updated so I went on to see the new objectives, they hadn’t published them, they had just removed the quote to say they had to publish every 4 years!

EHRC Adviser Support
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Hello
We’re grateful to you for bringing this matter to our attention. The information you provided is feeding into our evidence base and is being considered as part of our work around welfare benefits.
All advisers can use the Adviser Support service to let us know of trends or issues they think we should know about, and of course talk through cases an ask any questions around equality and human rights law.
Thank you
EHRC Adviser Support

Stuart
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First evidence session for the Select Committee inquiry - Enforcing the Equality Act - scheduled for tomorrow, heairng evidence from…

  - Catherine Rayner, Chair, Discrimination Law Association and barrister
  - Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society
  - Karon Monaghan QC, barrister

https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/women-and-equalities-committee/news-parliament-2017/enforcing-the-equality-act-evidence-17-19/

Stuart
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Women and Equalities Committee has published its report on Enforcing the Equality Act - including main recommendations to -

Develop a ‘critical mass’ of cases to inform employers and organisations about their legal duties and make adherence to existing equality law a priority for all organisations

Move away from relying so heavily on the current model of using individual litigation to create precedents

Make obligations on employers, public authorities, and service providers explicit and enforceable

Ensure that all who have powers to change the way in which employers, public bodies and service providers operate use their powers to eliminate discrimination and to advance equality

The EHRC must refocus its work and be bolder in using its unique enforcement powers.

Stuart
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Government’s response to the Women and Equalities Committee report on Enforcing the Equality Act includes -

‘... we welcome the Committee’s recommendations relating to the EHRC, and particularly its endorsement of the 2018 Tailored Review, to which both Government and the EHRC are committed. We are keen to see EHRC make further progress on the review’s recommendations to prioritise and deliver against its unique powers. We are clear that further enhancement of the EHRC’s enforcement role cannot merely be a question of it supporting more individuals to bring claims in courts and tribunals…

We therefore strongly support EHRC taking “smart” action, through more systemic approaches and considerably greater use of investigations, which have in the past tended to be seen by EHRC as separate exercises not closely related to its other enforcement work. We note that in the past year the Commission has initiated more enforcement action, leading to two major investigations and three inquiries.’