EHRC legal intervention on religious discrimination cases

The EHRC logo.

On 27 September 2011, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) announced that it had submitted its intervention to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on four cases relating to alleged religious discrimination in the workplace.

The Commission’s submission has been informed by a public consultation in which it asked for views on its proposed submission on the human rights elements of the four cases claiming religious discrimination, and separately, whether the concept of reasonable accommodation has any useful practical application in cases concerning the manifestation of religion or belief. The consultation closed on 5 September.

Click here for further details including link to consultation response summary and to submission to ECtHR

Scottish Government Equality Statement

The Scottish Government logo

In September 2011, the Scottish Government published the ‘Equality Statement: Scottish Spending Review 2011 and Draft Budget 2012-13’.

The document provides information on how spending contributes to improving equality outcomes and how the Scottish Government has considered the potential impacts of its spending plans on those groups of people whose lives are affected by discrimination and inequality.

Click here for Equality Statement (pdf)

Click here for Scottish Government website

The Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011

The Government Equalities Office (GEO) logo.

The Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011 came into force on 10 September 2011, following debates in the House of Commons on 11 July and the House of Lords on 6 September.

The Explanatory Memorandum that accompanies the regulations includes a summary of responses to both the consultation and the policy review, and sets out the decisions taken and the rationale for them.

The regulations set out specific duties imposed on listed public bodies to enable those public bodies to carry out the public sector Equality Duty more effectively. They are designed to ensure that public bodies are transparent about their compliance with the Equality Duty. By publishing information about their equality performance and objectives, public bodies will be accountable to the people and communities they serve.

The specific duties require public bodies to publish:

  • information to demonstrate their compliance with the Equality Duty, by 31 January 2012 ( 6 April 2012 for schools) and then at least annually, and
  • equality objectives, by 6 April 2012 and then at least every four years.

The Government Equalities Office will be publishing on its website a quick start guide to the specific duties for public bodies.

Voluntary and community sector organisations (VCSOs) will have a significant role to play in helping public bodies achieve transparency and accountability for their performance on equality. The Government Equalities Office is developing a toolkit to help VCSOs use the public sector Equality Duty more effectively to engage with public bodies on equality issues and hold them to account for their equality performance.

Click here for link to Regulations

Click here for Explanatory Memorandum

Click here for further information on the public sector Equality Duty and the specific duties

Government initiative for transparency on gender equality

Home Office

In September 2011, the Government launched the ‘Think, Act, Report’ initiative, aimed at improving transparency on gender equality issues in the private and voluntary sector.

Launching the initiative on 14 September, the Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, Theresa May announced that leading UK companies Tesco, BT and law firm Eversheds had signed-up to the government’s new framework for voluntary equality reporting, ‘Think, Act, Report’.

Click here for announcement

Click here for ‘Think, Act, Report’ framework

Click here for transcript of speech given at the launch by Theresa May

Click here for details of Acas guidance on ‘Voluntary Gender Equality Analysis and Reporting’ published in September 2011

European Commission anti-discrimination activities

The European Commission emblem.

European Commission antidiscrimination activities moved from DG Employment to DG Justice in January 2011.

Consequently, the antidiscrimination web pages and the ‘For Diversity. Against Discrimination’ campaign website have been integrated into the new DG Justice portal.

Update your favourites to stay up to date and discover our new web pages!

Click here for information on tackling discrimination

Click here for the For Diversity. Against Discrimination campaign

ENAR factsheet on multiple discrimination

The ENAR European Network Against Racism logo.

In July 2011, the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) published ‘The legal implications of multiple discrimination’ by Gay Moon, Equality Fellow, Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

This fact sheet aims to set out what is meant by multiple discrimination; what the UN and the European Union have to say about it; how different European Member States have introduced it into their legislation; how Europe could introduce pan-European provisions and how the concept of multiple discrimination has influenced policy responses in civil society.

This factsheet, as a follow-up to ENAR’s first factsheet on multiple discrimination (Factsheet 33), aims to explain multiple discrimination with a view to enhancing the capacity of ENAR members to develop mechanisms to address, in their work, the intersection between racism and other forms of discrimination.

Click here for link (pdf)

Click here for ENAR website

EHRC intervention in cases of religious discrimination

The EHRC logo.

On 11 July 2011, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) announced its application to intervene at the European Court of Human Rights in four cases involving religious discrimination in the workplace.

Following the announcement, the EHRC circulated the following ‘Q and A’ providing clarification:

Q. Why did the Commission make applications to intervene in these four cases?

These four cases were already before European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) before the Commission considered intervening and it is our expectation that all four are highly likely to be heard together because they involve the same legal question.

Commissioners on our Regulatory Committee took the view that, given our role as the National Human Rights Institution and equality regulator, it was not appropriate for these important cases to be heard without our input into the complex equality and human rights issues, including to ensure the principle of ‘reasonable accommodation’ is considered by the court.

We recognise that our stakeholders have important practical experience of how these issues affect the workplace and we intend to seek the views of our stakeholders before making submissions to the ECtHR . We will therefore be contacting our stakeholders as soon as we receive notification from the Court that our intervention is permitted for their views in the anticipated 3 week period during which we prepare our submissions.

Q. Who is the Commission supporting?

The Court does not permit interventions to support one party or to comment on the facts. In our role as an intervener in existing legal proceedings, we do not support either party in a case but simply seek to aid the court with the benefit of the Commission’s policy input and interpretation of the law.

The purpose of our intervention is to explain that the law should consider how it may give better respect for religious rights within the workplace than has hitherto been the case, without diminishing the rights of others. We want to change the view that there needs to be an either/or situation. The spotlight and focus is placed too frequently on conflict in place of dialogue that could help identify other acceptable workable solutions.

The accommodation of rights is not a zero sum equation whereby one right cancels out or trumps another. We believe that if the law and practice were considered more widely, then in many situations there would be scope for diverse rights to be respected.

Our view is that careful, sensitive and balanced treatment and consideration is discouraged by the approach taken by the courts to date. In turn, this hinders the development and dissemination of better practice amongst those with duties. We believe that where possible ways should be found within the law of promoting the resolution of disputes at an early stage, without protracted, costly, complex legal proceedings that irretrievably damage relations between the parties.

Q. Does this intervention reflect a new approach to the Commission’s work to ensure equality and prevent discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation?

Certainly not. We do not and will not licence discrimination and we continue to believe in the importance of taking action to eliminate it. For example, we will continue to support the appeal to the Court of Appeal to defend the rights of the gay couple who were not allowed to share a double room at a hotel on behalf of civil partners Martyn Hall and Steve Preddy.

There is not – and cannot be – any change in the Commission’s role as the NHRI and equality regulator with responsibility for preventing discrimination against people on grounds of sexual orientation, a responsibility that we aspire to fulfil to the best of our ability.

We would like to reassure our stakeholders that under no circumstances would the Commission condone or permit the refusal of public services to lesbian or gay people.

Click here for Stonewall response

Click here for response by Andrew Copson of the British Humanist Association on the Guardian website (13 July 2011)