A UNISON comment for PinkNews.co.uk

The government’s Equality Bill has received a fair bit of criticism in the pink press recently. UNISON supports the bill – while looking for improvements – and calls on members to let their MP know we want to see its successful passage into law.

UNISON has long campaigned for harmonised and comprehensive equality legislation. Existing laws are in desperate need of reform. This bill represents our best chance in a generation to win improvements. The Tories and some business leaders are saying its too bureaucratic and costly. Certain Christian groups are running well-organised letter writing campaigns against it because they oppose LGBT equality. We must not let our concerns about a few of its clauses jeopardise the whole bill. MPs need to know that there is strong support for the bill, not just opposition.

The bill replaces nine major pieces of legislation and around 100 sets of regulations with a single Act covering both employment and service provision for all equality groups. There is a detailed briefing on the bill at www.unison.org.uk/equality .

From an LGBT perspective, the main gain is that there will be a new duty on public bodies to promote equality in employment and service delivery across equality groups, including sexual orientation and gender reassignment. Equality will also be factor in public sector procurement.

The bill widens gender reassignment protection to mean that medical supervision is no longer required under the definition of gender reassignment.

It also gives some protection to school students for the first time and people who are incorrectly perceived to be undergoing gender reassignment or associate with people who are.

UNISON rejects the government’s view that is it unnecessary to have specific protection from harassment on grounds of sexual orientation in the delivery of services. We reject the view that it is unnecessary for school students to have specific protection from harassment on grounds of gender reassignment.

We continue to call for wider protection for all trans people from discrimination on grounds of gender identity and for clarification that exemptions for single sex services and genuine occupational qualifications do not apply to people with Gender Recognition Certificates.

UNISON also demands that the equal pay provisions are strengthened.

Even with these weaknesses, the bill is still a big step forward for equality. Let your MP know about the improvements you want to see but make it clear that you want to see this bill pass into law. Under a different government, all could be lost.

You can email your MP from www.writetothem.com – all you need is your postcode.

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