Following criticisms about the enforcement powers of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in a previous inquiry, the Women and Equalities Select Committee now wants to know what more needs to be done to achieve widespread compliance with the Equality Act 2010 for all those with rights under it.
It has therefore initiated a new inquiry which will explore:
- Known problems with enforcement
- Scope and clarity of the law
- The appropriate burden of enforcement
- Cost and remedies in discrimination claims
- The EHRC’s approach to enforcement and litigation
- Knowledge of rights and duties.
In particular the House of Commons Select Committee is considering the processes by which individual cases can be brought under the Equality Act, including the barriers that may prevent claimants from enforcing their rights; the role of the EHRC as the enforcement body, including the effectiveness of its duties, powers and policies; and whether there are other models of enforcement that could achieve more widespread compliance with the rights set out in the Equality Act 2010.
The committee has previously shown that individuals have difficulties enforcing their rights under the Act and has questioned the effectiveness of the EHRC. For instance, inquiries on pregnancy and maternity discrimination, transgender equality, disability and the built environment, workplace dress codes, older people and employment and sexual harassment in the workplace all identified widespread problems with enforcement.
The Committee has already made recommendations to improve the enforcement of the Equality Act in specific areas. These include:
- Extending time limits for bringing certain employment cases
- Adequate financial penalties
- Increased use by the EHRC of its enforcement powers
- Greater action by regulators to tackle discrimination in the organisations they oversee
Jo Seery of Thompsons Solicitors said: “While we welcome the inquiry into what more needs to be done to achieve compliance with the Equality Act 2010, we do not believe that this should delay implementation of recommendations the Women’s and Equality Committee has already made such as the introduction of financial penalties and increasing the EHRC’s enforcement powers.”
To read oral evidence given to the inquiry, go to the Committee website.