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ConDems shelve Equality Act timetable

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The Government Equality Office (GEO) has withdrawn the timetable that detailed which parts of the recently passed Equality Act would come into force when. Some elements were due to come into force in October.

The GEO had published a timetable online but that has been withdrawn. A GEO spokeswoman said that the withdrawal was due to the recent change in government and that the new government had yet to finalise its own legislative timetable.

“An announcement on scheduling for implementation of the Equality Act will be made in due course," said the spokeswoman, who confirmed that the new government is not bound by the timetable set by its predecessor.

The Equality Act replaced a number of anti-discrimination laws, including the Disability Discrimination Act.

Employment law expert Selwyn Blyth of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM, said that the government may end up not implementing many of the Act's provisions.

"I don't think this will surprise many people because the Conservative Party was very clear that if they won the election they would not be bringing in certain aspects of the Equality Act," he said. "I think we all expected the timetable to slip or for them simply to not bring parts of this into force.

"They are unlikely even to repeal the law. They will just implement the parts of the Act they like and not the parts they don't," he said. "Elements of the Act might just sit on the statute book awaiting another change of Government."

Blyth said that three parts of the Act were highlighted by the Conservatives in the run up to the recent election as being elements they would not introduce.

The first is a provision that when hiring, companies could discriminate in favour of people from under-represented groups such as women, ethnic minorities or disabled people, but only if candidates were equally well qualified.

The second area was the requirement that companies report the gap between the amount they pay women and the amount they pay men. "In their manifesto the Conservatives said that they would only introduce this for companies that had already been found guilty of sex discrimination," said Blyth.

The third part of the law that Conservatives said they would not introduce was a provision forcing public authorities to take socio-economic factors into account when allocating their resources.

Blyth said that the more managerial elements of the Act were likely to make it into law.

"In reality they will implement the parts of the Act they like, the stuff that streamlines everything and reduces regulation," he said. "Whole parts of the Act are just a consolidation of all the disparate acts that led to the matrix of discrimination laws we have. These were introduced piecemeal over the last 30 to 35 years and there is quite a lot of inconsistency between, for example, how race and sex discrimination law works."

Editor's Note: Our thanks to Daniel Barnett for bringing this issue to our attention.

Copyright © 2010, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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