Commenting on the Government’s Equality Bill which proposes tougher obligations on public organisations, Thompsons is also calling for progress reports on equality as a mandatory part of annual accounting.

Such documents should contain details of the gender pay gap and the percentage of the workforce who are disabled or who come from ethnic minorities, says Thompsons.

In its submission to ministers, Thompsons, the UK’s largest and most experienced union law firm, said any organisation undertaking a public service should be subject to the new equality duty irrespective of its size. Around a third of British companies are contracted by the public sector.

Equality reps within such organisations should have the same statutory status as health and safety reps, the law firm believes. And a senior manager should be given the responsibility for ensuring compliance with the new law.

Specific objectives should be set for each “protected characteristic” – such as age, disability and sexual orientation.

Thompsons believes the Bill is “too vague” about which organisations will be subject to which obligations. This together with the “misguided concern” about burdens on business, means that some employees will be treated less favourably than others.

The law firm argues that the imposition of specific legal duties on public bodies is the best way of ensuring justice. Rakesh Patel, equalities law expert at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “Despite a plethora of guidance for public bodies on how to comply with their equality duties when carrying out procurement, it appears that the majority of public authorities have failed to make equality considerations part of the process.

“Guidance on its own therefore has had little impact and with almost a third of British companies contracted by the public sector, now is the time to address this anomaly.”