Call for publication of equality assessment of COVID-19 law

The Women and Equalities Committee has asked the Minister for Women and Equalities to publish an equalities assessment of coronavirus legislation.

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The Women and Equalities Committee is calling on the Government to publish the equalities assessment of the emergency legislation dealing with Covid-19.

The Impact Assessment for the Coronavirus Act states that an equalities assessment was “carried out separately as part of the Public Sector Equalities Duty”.

Despite fears that the pandemic will affect women disproportionately in terms of potential job loss due to the sectors they are most represented in and due to potential discrimination due to perceptions about their caring responsibilities,  the assessment has not yet been published.

Committee Chair Caroline Nokes has written to Women and Equalities Minister Liz Truss, after she gave evidence to the Committee last week and said that this was because of the potential “chilling effect on being frank in those assessments” if the people preparing them knew they would be published.

The Committee says it does not agree that the purpose of such an assessment is to inform Government only, arguing that publication would allow those who may be particularly affected by a policy or by legislation to better understand what might happen to them as a result and would enable experts, interest groups and those affected to help shape the Government’s plans to mitigate impacts.

Committee Chair Caroline Nokes said in the letter: “These are difficult times and we already know some groups, such as those above a certain age, are at greater risk from coronavirus. We also know that they will experience specific impacts from Government measures to protect public health. Many individuals and groups submitting evidence to our inquiry have highlighted how they consider the existing measures to have disproportionately impacted them. Such measures may, of course, be necessary and unavoidable. Surely, in a fair and democratic society, it is only right that we are able to have an open conversation about the equality assessment; to allow Committees such as ours, individuals and other groups to scrutinise the Government’s work and contribute to mitigating any negative consequences.”

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