EHRC overall mandate is to promote and monitor human rights and equality based on the grounds of age, gender, disability, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, sexual orientation and gender reassignment, race, religion and belief (EHRC, 2011).
Acts of Parliament
Sex Discrimination Act 1975 prohibits discrimination based on sex or marital status in recruiting, training and promotion. Direct sex discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favorably on the grounds on of sex than a person of the other sex would have been treated in the same circumstances (Cepr, 2011). Indirect sex discrimination occurs when a condition is applied equally to men and women but the proportion of one sex that meet the condition is much smaller than the proportion of the other sex. This act also covers victimization.
Race Relation Act 1976 prohibits discrimination based on color, race, nationality or ethnic origin. Section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 touches on issues relating to illegal working and prohibits employment of a person who is not allowed to live or work in the United Kingdom. This Act therefore binds employers to check the immigration status of employees prior to employment.
Equal Pay Acts 1970 and 1983 abolish discrimination in pay between men and women. This act empowers employees to make claims regarding pay through the Employment Tribunal system.
Disability Discrimination Act 1995, in addition to covering general discrimination, the Act also binds the employer with responsibility of ensuring working place accommodates even the disabled people. The Act clearly defines disability to include physical disabilities, sensory disabilities, learning difficulties, mental health problems and conditions of Aids and Multiple Sclerosis (Cepr, 2011).
Human Right Act 1998 ensures safe enjoyment of the fundamental human rights including rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the right to respect for private and family life, while prohibiting discrimination on grounds of sex, race, color, language, religion, political opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status (Cepr, 2011). This Act also safeguards persons against discrimination based on sexual orientation, religious belief or family situation.
Age discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favorably based on age without justification. On grounds of age, there are different types of discrimination such as direct, indirect, harassment and victimization. The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 ban employers from discriminating employees on grounds of age.
The EHRC is mandated to tackle disability discrimination and promote disability equality. The Disability Committee is charged with the mandate of decision-making in matters concerning the disabled.
The commission has put various mechanism in place to deal with issues relating to sex discrimination and promotion of gender equality in public services, at work, in education and as a consumer. The commission has been championing fight against racial discrimination and encouraging race equality. There have much spirited efforts to promote workforce diversity and tackling race discrimination in different settings. The commission has been in the forefront in tackling discrimination originating from religion and belief and providing guidance for the employers and employees on religion in the work places.
Tackling of transgender issues and even funding agencies which promote transgender equality has been one of the commission roles. Promotion of sexual orientation equality and tackling of discrimination based on sexual orientation in different settings has always been the commission mandate.
Challenges to Equal Opportunity in UK
Gender stereotyping begins early in life, with the boys and girls being oriented by the society to pick manly and female behavior. This stereotyping can affect the subject studied and career choices for boys and girls. Men and women play different roles at home and in upbringing of the children which sometimes play a role in sexual orientation at work place and career progress. Studies have shown that though women get equal pay for the same job as men get, they find it more difficult to get good jobs and the average woman is paid around 30 percent less than the average man (Cullingworth, 2001, P.131). In addition, women are more likely to be predisposed to problems like physical abuse and anorexia due to their gender that has been stereotyped by media and at home.
Studies have shown that most ethnic minority groups are more likely to be unemployed, and they get lower pay than the white people (Cullingworth, 2001, P.131). The issue of equal opportunity has always been a problem in the armed forces who recruit more men than women since fighting has been mostly associated with men. People from ethnic minority group have been reported to face some bullying and mistreatment during armed forces training. Generally, ones social class has impact on career choices people make, as well as influence on people’s lifestyle which affects them in trying to fit in and consequently having impact on their career.
The disabled face challenges of securing employment especially in private sector due to their conditions which sometimes can affect their work output.
The illegal immigrants and asylum seekers are viewed with bias by some people as they associate them with terrorist links and are also seen as economical migrants coming to secure the British people’s jobs.
Currently, the number of pension-age people supported by the government is increasing pressuring the government to consider increasing pension age. Increasing the limit would increase youth unemployment which is very negative tor the community as crime rate and drug abuse would increase, slowing economic growth.
Events like September 11 attacks affect religious relations between different religious which can increase religious discrimination.
Impact of Equality Law in the UK
The Equality Law broadened the definition of discriminations and provided for Employment Tribunals that have the power to make recommendations that benefit the entire workforce and not only the claimant (Salmon, 2010). Employers no longer have the right to ask applicants pre-employment health questions unless in certain situations related intrinsically to the job. In addition, harassment caused by third parties in the work place will be heaped on the employer. The employer is also required to use positive action to tackle issues of discrimination. Moreover, the secrecy clauses regarding pay disclosure are no longer binding on the employees.
Landlords and property managers have a new responsibility of ensuring their buildings are modified to make them accessible by the disabled in more advantageous manner in their favor.
Through the single equality duty, public bodies are charged with the responsibility of promoting and protecting dignity of all people in the society (Salmon, 2010).
The meaning of service provider has been added to include even people previously not counted as service providers. A service provider is any one who provides service to the public or a section of the public.
For pension schemes new overriding rules have applied into the occupational pension schemes that they should never discriminate on basis of age, disability, religion or sexual orientation.
Train operators should take reasonable steps to enable the disabled people to use their services.
Women and people from ethnic minority have benefited more from law which recognize them through increased job opportunity in order to reduce existing disparities. Men especially the white men are faced with increased competition for jobs and promotion. Men are becoming more active in house hold jobs reducing the stereotype behavior of associating household jobs with women.
CEPR. 2011. Equal Opportunities. London. (Online). Web.
Cullingworth, N., 2001. Edexcel BTEC first public services textbook. London: Nelson Thornes.
EHRC. 2011. Equality Human Rights Commission. (Online).
Salmon, B., 2010. The Equality Act 2010. UK. (Online). Web.