The government’s long-awaited Equality Bill was published today by Minister for Equality Harriet Harman.

It contains a raft of measures aimed at tackling social inequality, such as forcing employers to reveal how much staff are paid.

The Bill will also extend protection against discrimination in employment, goods and services in respect of sexual orientation, trans status and age.

Many protections which already apply on the basis of sexual orientation will be extended to cover discrimination due to trans status.

It will also place a duty on all public bodies to promote equality.

In a statement released today, Harman said: “The Equality Bill is part of building a strong fair future for Britain out of the downturn. That means fairness and opportunity. Especially in tougher economic times, we need to face the problems fairly and we need to look for a fairer future.

“Though we have ensured new rights and opportunities for disabled people, for women, black and Asian people and older people – there is still unfairness and discrimination to tackle. And this Bill will take the action necessary to tackle it.

Katie Hanson, LGBT Labour co-chair, said: “This Bill is a real mark of how far we have come. Twenty-one years after the introduction of Section 28 – vicious Tory legislation that Labour repealed in 2003 – the Equality Bill is set to give teachers a duty to promote equality in the classroom, and to stop homophobic bullying.

“The Bill will also mean many of the protections won in the last decade will be strengthened and expanded – for instance the laws that currently protect lesbian, gay, and bisexual people from discrimination will be extended to cover the trans community.

“We really welcome this ambitious legislation and will be campaigning to make sure it gets through parliament.”

Jonathan Finney, Stonewalls’s senior parliamentary officer, said: “Lesbian, gay and bisexual people fund public services like everyone else. Yet all too often they receive second-class treatment from key services like healthcare and policing.

“The proposed equality duty would move us from dealing with discrimination after it occurs to proactively advancing equality. It offers the missing piece of the jigsaw for full legal protection for gay people in Britain.”

However, business leaders have criticised the measures, saying that they will place undue regulation on businesses at a difficult financial time.

Miles Templeman, director general of the Institute of Directors, said: “This is a further example of unnecessary regulation at a time when companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, are struggling to survive.”