Running Head: EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY 1 Equality and Diversity: A New Approach to Gender Equality Policy in the UK Gender Studies 30th April 2011 EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY 2 Abstract The United Kingdom is a country that claims to be intolerant towards gender discrimination and at ease with diversity of all kinds. It believes in the basic rights of its people as it supports equality and looks down upon prejudice.
This paper focuses on the purpose of the Britain’s government Equality Bill policy now known as the Equality Act and examines the developments in the policy over time and the extent to which gender issues are considered or lost due to diversity. The impact of this particular policy has been immense; however, there is still lack of transparency for which recommendations shall be given in this paper as well. Also different books, Commission of Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) triennial review and UK’s Government Equalities Office (GEO) “Framework for a Fairer Future – The Equality Bill” will be discussed to signify how important this issue is.
Key Words: equality bill, commission of equality and human rights, gender, diversity EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY 3 Equality and Diversity: A New Approach to Gender Equality Policy in the UK “If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place. ” – Margaret Mead The United Kingdom seems to be following along the same lines.
The Equality Act first appeared in 2006 but could not be implemented as the parliament dissolved due to upcoming elections. In 2007 the government reestablished a proposal for an Equality Bill for The Great Britain by means of a consultation paper ‘A Framework for Fairness’ which later in 2008 through GEO “Framework for a Fairer Future – The Equality Bill” made it clear that the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) will bring together the work of three existing commissions dealing with issues like age, gender, race, religion and sexual orientation into a single commission for equality of human rights.
The Equality Bill was published on 27th April 2009 and became an Act of Parliament on 8th April 2010. Hence, the Equality Act 2010 originator is the Equality Act 2006. According to UK’s Government Equalities Office (GEO) “Framework for a Fairer Future – The Equality Bill” the purpose of this Equality Bill was to set up CEHR in order to make Britain a fair-minded country, where people regardless of their age, gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or beliefs have an equal opportunity to succeed.
The bill aimed to make public bodies more transparent so that inequality can be seen and hence measured and worked upon for progress by taking into account the various needs and requirements of the labor force EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY 4 Equality and Diversity: A New Approach to Gender Equality Policy in the UK and different existing communities when upgrading employment policies and services.
It also focused on extending the discrimination legislation which covers factors like religion or belief to incorporate the supplying of facilities and services like goods, education and premises. Furthermore, the bill, in addition promoted equality of opportunity and discouraged discrimination between both the sexes by creating a duty on public authorities. The Equality Bill was widely accepted and received great support by different Commissions, Councils and Forums like Equal Opportunity Commission, Disability Rights Commission, The Muslim Council of Britain and The Equality and Diversity Forum.
The Human Rights and Equality campaigners also gave the Bill their support. Geoffrey Bindman, visiting professor of law at University College, said: “I am glad that the opportunity has been taken to streamline the body’s investigation procedures, eliminating some of the obstacles that the existing commissions have faced. I hope that further improvements to anti-discrimination law will result from the government’s recently announced Discrimination Law Review. Hence, after becoming the Act of the Parliament, the advancements in the Act are critically followed and reported. The Equality and Human Rights Commission is required to report to the parliament on the progress Britain is making under this vision every three years – the triennial review. EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY 5 Equality and Diversity: A New Approach to Gender Equality Policy in the UK
According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission First Triennial Review 2010 “The Equality Act 2010 complements and builds on the provisions of the Equality Act 2006, which itself strengthened several aspects of discrimination law and set out the roles and responsibilities of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. ” The Equality Act 2010 basically brings all equality laws into one single place, therefore, making it easier for people to understand and conform and easier for the government to enforce it. It gives diverse people rights and provides protection to them on regular basis.
Under it, Employers cannot treat a person unjustly because of his/her age, gender, disability, race, religion or sexual orientation. Instead disabled people are treated more favorably then non-disabled people by the organizations and employers. According to Russell Sandberg in his book “Law and Religion” (2011) under the Equality Act 2010, it is illegal for an employer to reject a job applicant because he is a Muslim. Furthermore, he says it is also unlawful to refuse to promote the best employ because she’s a female.
Equality Act 2010 also makes sure that the United Kingdom’s service sector does not discriminate bisexual or transgender people. For example, in the triennial review 2010 it states that “It would be unlawful for a hotel or B+B to refuse to take a booking from a couple because they were of the same sex or for a GP’s surgery to turn away new patients because they were Somali. ” [Chap. 2] EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY 6
Equality and Diversity: A New Approach to Gender Equality Policy in the UK Different organizations can choose to promote equality if they want too. For example, an Art University can organize an event to attract males if they think only females are interested in the field. Moreover, it is compulsory for public bodies to evaluate the impact their decisions will have on people coming for diverse backgrounds and take into consideration ways to promote equality between them if needed.
In addition, the UK’s GEO in regards to Equality Act works directly with main stakeholders to generate a gender equality check list which permits organizations to recognize whether their working practices are a means of creating the gender gap between men and women or not. However, there are a number of ways in which the CEHR and the Act’s attention from gender issues can be lost in diversity. It can easily advantage other scope of inequality over sex and gender in the great diversity bundle.
Also the Act can reduce the importance of gender inequalities by connecting diversity with business, which consequently dangers the critical relationship of paid and unpaid work that highlights gender equality. While paying attention to gender issues the gender equality policy requires the job of addressing inequalities between men and women. EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY 7 Equality and Diversity: A New Approach to Gender Equality Policy in the UK
On the other hand, the concept of diversity gives the prospect for overcoming many problems. At a micro level equality and difference identify the problem of assembling men and women as homogenous groups. As a result, the stress on women’s differences from men has covered women’s difference from each other in respect of race or class. Hence one needs to think about the differences in a way so that equality becomes compatible with diversity. For example, not all Men or women are the same; diversity permits a different perception of characteristics that make them different.
Nevertheless, besides the above mentioned features, advancements in the Act have been made during 2010 and in the current year 2011 as well. The Act ensured protection against direct and indirect discrimination for both the sexes. It also removed the need for medical supervision in order to change the characterization of gender removal and for protecting people who provide care in these cases from being discriminated. Moreover, it provided stronger protection for breastfeeding mothers.
The Act restricted the conditions in which employers are able to ask applicants questions about health or disability, hence, making it impossible for disabled people to be wrongly screened out. Plus recently for maintaining gender equality it made positive changes in workforce recruitment and promotion and established a public sector Equality Duty as well. This all shows that the Equality Act does pay great attention to gender issues and they are not lost due to diversity, instead great emphasis is made to eradicate inequality between the sexes EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY 8
Equality and Diversity: A New Approach to Gender Equality Policy in the UK and full liberty and rights are given to LGBQT. With passage of time, the British society has become diverse but still the public opinion keeps on shifting as it depends on many other factors like friends, family, media, school, public figures and religious groups etc. Nevertheless, after the implementation of the Equality Act 2010, it has been observed that people have become more accepting towards diversity and tolerant plus respectful towards different groups of people.
Sociologist and researches state that they racial prejudice in Britain have reduced drastically. Cases where White people didn’t like working for Black or Asian or vice versa are barely observed. Even ethnic backgrounds differences and discriminations are minimal; people are now more open to marriages with people from different ethnic backgrounds. Currently, gender stereotyping is no more prevalent. Both the genders are free to opt whatever careers or gender roles they want to as fixed ideas about what roles a male and female should have in family and social life are no more existent.
Judicial independence has been a prominent feature of the Britain. Recently, developments have been made in legislation and policies for diverse groups of people in order to avoid inequalities and prevent discrimination for LGB people and greater recognition of the needs of ethnic or religious minorities and women by the police. Moreover, attacks on these people are now seen as hate crime which in return helps the victim to report such cases and makes sure that they will be dealt with properly.
EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY 9 Equality and Diversity: A New Approach to Gender Equality Policy in the UK The impact of the Equality at the EU level has been great. It was the EU Directives that provided the impetus towards the establishment of the UK’s CEHR. With the passage of time the understanding and connotation of gender equality at EU level has changed. It was first in the 1970’s when EU finally put in practice gender equality. However, EU is now implementing a ual approach of gender equality based on gender mainstreaming that is encouraging gender inequality in all areas. Despite, all these provisions and advancements in the Britain’s Equality Act 2010, the act itself and other policies ignore the disadvantages being caused by people who are not directly in the market. The Act doesn’t ensure 100 percent transparency and the constant use of the term gender inequality to indicate differences between man and women ignores the inequality which exists for women due to family and care responsibilities.
Married women are paid less than unmarried women, they face discrimination when being higher for a job and the Act has no clause on that. Plus many parents especially women want to spend more time with their children or dependent elderly relatives and for that they are willing to trade lower earning. This results in poverty. The Act emphasis on gender inequality and tries to eradicate it, however, the maternity legislation allows women to have more than a year off after child birth with a right to their
EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY 10 Equality and Diversity: A New Approach to Gender Equality Policy in the UK employment. This does not define gender equality but instead shows inequality in the labor market as it is taking away someone’s right to work and is also not helping the women whose job it is. Also the word gender refers to differences between men and women only, rather than differences that arise from factors like economic and social drawbacks suffered by women in Britain.
Currently, the Equality Bill focuses mainly on the inequalities of women who are least disadvantaged. I recommend it to look and search for the drawbacks faced by married women who are ignored by CEHR definition of being disadvantaged and make suggestions to overcome these disadvantages. Secondly, child poverty cannot be handled without eradicating mother’s poverty. So the long leave and unpaid work is of no use. Thus, I recommend that the Act instead of giving long leaves gives paid work to the mothers so that have much better financial support for long term rather than short term.
The Act also focuses on discrimination on the basis of age; however, nothing major is done about it. Age disadvantage is most suffered by women. Men as compared to women regardless of their age find work quicker. It takes a lot of time for women to achieve a satisfactory level of income. This is injustice on the part of women, which shows that there can never be equality EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY 11 Equality and Diversity: A New Approach to Gender Equality Policy in the UK etween men and women. Also pensions are usually given to men and not women. Therefore, the recommendation is that the Act should consider age issues with regards to women and should implement some sort of protection for aged women and take into account the prospect of pensions for them. Overall, I think United Kingdom’s Equality Act policy has made a huge meaningful difference in the lives of many people who were trapped in the hideous bubble of discrimination and their opportunities were determined by their age, sexual orientation, religion or unfortunately their disability.
And above all it has changed the perception of most of the British people about diverse groups of people from diverse backgrounds and has constituted what a fair or a well-mannered society should look for. The Act links equality, diversity and human rights together under one platform for encouraging gender and sex equality. It tries to bridge the gap between goals and actuality. It has also removed old biases to a great extent. Yet, there is a lot more to be done and I believe constant effort will determine complete equality in the United Kingdom.
Then again, no research can entirely obtain accuracy and even in this research I faced quite a few limitations like narrowing down the topic, reviewing authentic literature as we don’t have access EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY 12 Equality and Diversity: A New Approach to Gender Equality Policy in the UK to online journals, searching for triennial review in libraries, managing time with final exams and other term papers and of course keeping the track of the format along with the citation.
EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY 13 Equality and Diversity: A New Approach to Gender Equality Policy in the UK References Commission of Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) First Triennial Review 2010 Government Equalities Office (GEO) “Framework for a Fairer Future – The Equality Bill” Government Equalities Office (GEO) Plan Specification Summary Author. Sandberg. Russell, Law and Religion (2011) Gender Equality ; Millennium Development Goals – World Bank (2003) Equality and Human Rights Commission http://www. equalityhumanrights. com/