back to article The Equality Bill: Hidden agenda?

Employment lawyers and HR professionals would be well advised to keep a close eye on the progress of the Equality Bill, currently being debated in the House of Lords. Initially intended as a legislative sweep-up, it now proposes major policy changes. This Bill began life as a piece of legislative house-keeping, designed to …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "affirmative action"

    I'm opposed to "affirmative action" or "positive discrimination" as a matter of principle, but I can also see how it might be abused. Most law students and newly qualified lawyers are female. But a law firm doesn't like hiring young females because they tend to disappear on maternity leave. So, pick the male candidates and call it "affirmative action"!

  2. Jacqui

    Equality Disclaimers

    You can always tell the employers and agencies that have had (and probably still still have) discriminating staff and/or policies because ofthe big prominent "we dont discriminate" footers on emails and adverts. Dont they *know* the only reason companies display them is *after* they lose a discrimination battle?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Like health and safety companies will need to be proactive in implementing equality to meet their obligations.

    Now if Labour could just introduce the Corporate Manslaughter legislation it promised ......

  4. Gordon is not a Moron

    I wonder how outsourcing effects this

    or haven't the thought that far? Like lots of people I work in a company that has outsourced lots of it's work to India, and under the current targets 80% of IT work will be done offshore. That means that there are a lot of people working for the company that are of Indian origin, but the number of actual employees from the same ethnic groupings will be much smaller.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    We are all equal....

    "The Bill says that if an employer is faced with two equally qualified candidates for a job it can choose one over the other on the basis that they are from a group of people who are under-represented in that organisation, perhaps on the basis of their gender, race or disability."

    Can I suggest that this be named the Animal Farm clause?

    Some people *are* more equal than others, because the Government say its so.

    Big Brother, because there isn't a Napoleon icon.

    1. James Whale
      Thumb Up

      Far-fetched but not impossible

      I think you are slightly misinterpreting the clause. The point of this part of the bill is to help employers, when faced with two candidates who are so equally-matched in every respect that deciding between them is resultantly difficult, the employer can use positive discrimination. This is actually quite sensible, and in reality, actually, will be used once in a blue moon, considering the likelihood of having two candidates who are that equally matched.

      1. John 62

        interesting point

        I would think there are lots of jobs, like cafe staff, supermarket staff, etc, where there may be some equally qualified people who apply. In any case of equally qualified people, I think the best solution may be to choose at random and keep the other person(s) on file in case the first one chosen doesn't last. Perhaps that should be put into law.

        I suppose my question would be: Could a person claim negative discrimination if they fail to get a job where the other applicant got the job because of positive discrimination?

        Oh, and on the article's point of positive discrimination not having a precedent in UK law: Northern Ireland is probably slightly different, but there were the Patten recommendations that were carried out by the Police Service of Northern Ireland. People from a protestant background weren't told they couldn't join, but the training college places had a quota for each year of 50/50 protestant/Catholic. After the quota for each background was filled, further applicants of that background had to wait a year. Because there were fewer applicants from a Catholic background they would be much less likely of oversubscribing their quota.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        re: Far-fetched but not impossible

        I think YOU are misinterpreting the clause.

        What it boils down to is, if there are two candidates of equal strength. Under the new legislation there will be a justifiable reason to choose the minority candidate, but no justifiable reason to choose the non-minority candidate.

        THAT, my friend, is racist.

        And will be used mainly in the public sector where bosses have to prove justifiable reasons for choosing one candidate over another.

        If this legislation goes through as is, the situation could be summed up thusly : A fucking disgrace.

  6. Anonymous Coward


    Had a quick look at the Bill and it says that almost all of it will only come into force when ordered by a Minister. IANAL but aren't ministerial commencement orders subject to consultation procedures before they come into force? It seems to me that with so little time left before the General Election there's little chance that even if the Act passes, it will come into effect before the Tories take power, and I can't see them falling over themselves to bring the Act in to force any time soon.

  7. MinionZero


    The goal of allowing positive discrimination is mutually exclusive with the goal of stopping discrimination.

    Therefore, which is it?

    Or are there corporations lobbying behind the scenes on this, to provide bosses with a legalized back door clause to allow the bosses to basically do whatever they want and get away with it legally? (So they can use positive discrimination to hire and sack wherever they want and then if someone complains, the bosses have a ready made excuse to get free from any legal action against them. Wonderful for the employer, not so good for all employees ... which would be typical of the way things are going these days. So the rich get richer and the poor loose out so the rich can keep getting richer). Oh joy, I can't wait. :(

  8. g e


    Not having a disability has now become a disability ?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Such great insight!

      Yes, because having someone else, who is just as qualified as you, being selected for a position because that group is under-represented instead of you is *exactly* like having a disability, if not worse.

      At least in your mind.

      Plus this bill is not just about disabilities but *any* demographic that is under-represented within a workforce. Which is great, because a homogeneous workforce is suspicious and probably a dull place to work.

  9. Stuart 22 Silver badge

    Yes we do need reform

    Interesting case - my daughter has a disability, lives in Lewisham, and as a consequence gets aggro from the Housing Association that took over the stock from the council.

    The judges said the case was finely balanced which is why the two courts went different ways. It really hinges on whether the 'discriminator' should take into account the consequences of a disability in fulfilling the tenants obligations. On the presumption, which the judges accepted, that the DDA was being used as a smokescreen then the widespread application of this judgement to others is very worrying.

    So the law IMHO needs a nudge towards respecting the consequences of a diability without giving a carte blanche that because I'm black, blind, one legged and transgendered - you can't touch me.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IT types know how this works

    It's called "the second system effect" and is sure to bring us an absolute moloch of an unusable law.

  11. Wize

    There is nothing positive about 'positive discrimination'

    Discrimination is never positive to the person being discriminated against.

    Discrimination, no mater what words you put round it is bad.

    Always has been. Always will be.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Socialism in one bill

    This is socialism in one law. Equal outcomes even though Labour promised to only enact equal opportunity. It is essentially a declaration of war on business and especially the middle classes.

    Lets hope the Lords manage to delay it until it can be dumped after the election and Harman can wallow in her hatred of the white man on the opposition benches.

  13. Bunglebear
    Thumb Down

    Ethnic monitoring

    Although the bill has been structured to make it difficult to implement, it is a very worrying trend indeed. It was said of affirmative action in the US, 500 places on a university course. Affirmative action kicks in, one white person is removed and a ethnic minority with lower grades is put in. The ethnic minority would have been refused the place on poor grades. The white person lost the place simply because of the colour of their skin. Its racism, just fashionable and politically allowable racism. This bill is one step away from quotas and that is a disaster.

    I always put on ethnic monitoring forms for jobs that I am black disabled lesbian. If they question it my answer is "Why is the form still attached to my application?" and secondly "would I have go the interview otherwise?"

    Harman needs to go, shes a man hating feminist dinosaur and does the government no favours.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    "So if you BELIEVE you were excluded from a job...

    because you are an older woman you can claim discrimination"

    So under British justice (sic), an allegation now becomes a case to answer?!? Isn't there the small matter of evidence?

    Presumably, under this "lunatics are running the asylum" legal (joke of a) system we now live under, an applicant simply has to blackmail the employer with a lawsuit to secure the job offer.

    Where's the Animal Farm icon, this country is long past its sell by date.

  15. Pablo

    Doesn't sound so bad to me

    Most of that sounds reasonable, and anything that makes the law clearer is always good. I admit the "affirmative action" part looks a little out of place, but if you really think about it, what it allows (not requires) is what most people would do anyway.

    "Huh, it looks like these to applicants, Gary and Martha, are equally qualified, who should we pick? Well we don't have many women working here, let's hire Martha."

    Is that really so bad? An important point (if this article explains the law correctly) is that it only allows this for the purpose of balancing an organizations own ranks. That limits the potential for abuse quite a bit.

  16. Equitas
    Thumb Down


    Does "equal opportunity" not simply mean that white white heterosexual males must always be discriminated against?

  17. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)


    Yeah, you guys could really use a break.

  18. Alex Barwick

    Equality for All

    As a union member working for a local authority what is wanted is common sense. The right person in place for the job regardless of colour, religion, disability. sex. and sexual orientation, but at the same time leaving it to the employer the right to chose the person who they think is right for the job. How can you legislate for that, you might get pretty dam close but it would leave the door open for unscrupulous people on both sides to take advantage. As for positive discrimination it is again demeaning to the minority and discriminative to the majority. My views are not necessary the views of my union but a personal view.

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