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Equality North East

Equality Bill: new amendments agreed by Committee MPs

Vera Baird, Solicitor General, has welcomed two important amendments to the Equality Bill. This came on the day the Bill successfully completed its scrutiny by committee MPs in the House of Commons on Tuesday 7 July 2009.

The Equality Bill was amended to make clear that treating a woman unfavourably because of pregnancy or maternity - at work or in shops and public services - is unlawful and cannot be justified.

A new ‘dual discrimination’ clause was also inserted into the Bill to allow people directly discriminated against because of a combination of two protected characteristics to make a claim.

This would mean, for example, that a black woman who is discriminated against because her employer has a particular stereotyped attitude towards black women – as opposed to black men or white women – could bring a single claim for combined race and sex discrimination.

Vera Baird, Solicitor General and Equality Bill Lead Minister, said:

“We are determined to strengthen the Bill to make it absolutely clear that discrimination against pregnant women and new mothers cannot be justified. Protection against ‘dual discrimination’ is also a progressive step forward in fighting discrimination, giving people access to justice when they experience this particular type of discrimination which can be caused by stereotyped attitudes.

“The successful completion of the committee scrutiny process means the Equality Bill is making good progress and we are a step closer to creating a more equal society.”

The committee debated key areas in the Equality Bill including equal pay, gender pay gap reporting, positive action, the public sector Equality Duty, age discrimination, the socio-economic duty on public authorities, the definitions of gender reassignment and disability, and the balance between competing rights such as sexual orientation and religion or belief.

The Equality Bill will now go to the Report stage in the House of Commons, when all MPs will be given the opportunity to debate and propose further amendments to the Bill.

The majority of the Equality Bill should come into force by Autumn 2010, subject to its progress through Parliament. This is the earliest anticipated commencement date following Royal Assent.

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July 15, 2009

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