London’s Mayor, Ken Livingstone, has launched an attack against Britain’s anti-discrimination law on the day the new Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is established.
The Commission brings together a number of anti-discrimination commissions into one equality body designed to enforced anti-discrimination legislation and offer employers, public sector bodies and individuals practical advice.
But the mayor claims that the current level of legal protection is inadequate.
“Britain’s anti-discrimination law is not working and needs a major shake up to deliver real and enforceable rights to equality,” he said.
“Intrinsic to securing our vision for a fundamentally more equal society is legislation that protects people against discrimination in all its forms and mechanisms.
“This is not the case at the moment: discrimination remains legal depending on who you are and where it happens. The law is mainly enforced on an individual basis, after discrimination has had an impact on an individual’s life.”
He continued: “Tribunals have few powers to correct patterns of discrimination, while barriers mean that few cases of discrimination in services get a hearing.”
Mr Livingstone, who is seen as having a strong record on gay rights since he set up Britain’s first register for gay couples in 2001, called for a comprehensive Single Equality Act to replace the UK’s myriad anti-discrimination legislation.
“A new Act is needed to remove loopholes in legislation and give stronger enforcement to end pay discrimination against women and challenge the under-representation of women and ethnic minorities in senior employment and breaches of disability discrimination legislation,” he said.
“Lacking representative structures yet with a remit to cover six strands of equality in addition to human rights, the Commission for Equality and Human Rights is a far from ideal organisation to replace and extend the three statutory equality commissions.”
He called for more “checks and balances” to be built into equality law, including the monitoring of workforces, reviews of pay structures, explicit duties on procurement, an extension of public sector duties and improved enforcement.