Review launched of sex discrimination laws

Gender equality


A major review of the UK’s sex discrimination laws has been launched in response to a perceived risk that long-established rights could be eroded or weakened as a result of Brexit and the UK leaving the EU single market.

The review will be conducted by the Fawcett Society and will also consider the effectiveness of the current laws and how best to balance the rights of the individual with the responsibilities of the organisation.

The review will be headed by Dame Laura Cox DBE, a retired High Court Justice, and co-ordinated by equality law expert Gay Moon. Panel members include a number of leading QCs and equality law experts. The review is set to last for approximately nine months and will report in the autumn.

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society said: “The Prime Minister has made the welcome commitment that she wants the UK to be a fairer place, that she will not only protect workers’ rights but build on them. We share that goal. We have an ambitious vision, to make the UK the best place to be a woman.”

“But to achieve that we need to create a legislative framework fit for the 21st century. One that genuinely protects the rights of the individual – rights that they can exercise by giving them access to justice – and promotes equality.

“The PM has also made clear that if necessary she will take the UK down a low tax low regulation path. That can only mean us turning the clock back on women’s rights and we cannot allow that to happen.”

The Review will consider the effectiveness of the law to date in addressing gender inequality, including access to justice. It will also identify gaps in protections for women and recommend how those gaps could be addressed. In particular, it will look at:

  • Employment law & discrimination including pregnancy discrimination, dress codes, equal pay including pension provision
  • The application of the definition of indirect discrimination
  • Family friendly rights for parents and carers, including possible consolidation
  • Harassment including on the internet and social media
  • Hate crime and its limits
  • Multiple discrimination, particularly intersectional discrimination and whether Section 14 of the Equality Act 2010 in its current form is sufficient
  • Public sector equality duty and specific duties
  • The balance of individual rights vs the responsibility of the organisation to promote equality

Smethers added: “What we need is a framework which gets the balance right between the rights of the individual and the responsibilities of the organisation. At the moment I think we are failing on both counts so things need to change.”

The Review is inviting submissions. Those who wish to submit evidence should send it to:

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