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)

Government strategy for preventing extremism

Home Office

On 7 June 2011, the Government launched its strategy for preventing people being drawn into terrorism.

The new Prevent programme will:

  • deal with all forms of terrorism and target not just violent extremism but also non-violent extremism, which can create an atmosphere conducive to terrorism and can popularise views which terrorists exploit
  • ensure government funding and support cannot reach organisations with extremist views who do not support mainstream British values
  • challenge the ideology that supports terrorism and those who promote it
  • support sectors and institutions, including universities and prisons, where there are risks of radicalisation
  • draw on existing successful programmes to protect vulnerable individuals from being drawn into terrorism
  • crucially, all new programmes will be evaluated rigorously to ensure effectiveness and value for money

The Home Secretary, Theresa May said:

‘Prevent is an integral part of our counter-terrorism strategy and aims to stop people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism.

Our new Prevent strategy will challenge extremist ideology, help protect institutions from extremists, and tackle the radicalisation of vulnerable people. And we will not fund or work with organisations that do not subscribe to the core values of our society.

Above all, it will tackle the threat from home-grown terrorism.’

Click here for details on Home Office website

Click here for strategy document (pdf)

Parliamentary debate on the European Convention on Human Rights

The House of Commons logo.

On 19 May 2011, the House of Lords debated the European Convention on Human Rights, with a number of  peers expressing support for the Convention, for human rights and for the Human Rights Act.

Baroness Whitaker stated: ‘The domestication of the European Convention on Human Rights, via the Human Rights Act, far from licensing various kinds of absurd or even criminal behaviour, has achieved respectful, compassionate and fair treatment for very many of our fellow citizens oppressed by systems or bureaucracy or misguided or oppressive elements of the state, as the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, eloquently described. Enemies of red tape and bureaucracy should welcome the Human Rights Act’.

Lord Willis pointed out that the Convention ‘was inspired by Winston Churchill, was largely drafted by British lawyers and was seen after the horrors of totalitarian tyranny as a way of protecting the individual against the arbitrary power of the state. The Human Rights Act incorporates those protections into British law so that British citizens can seek them in British courts. Yet too often now, these rights are viewed as an irritant by politicians seeking easy headlines and by journalists who are eager to write them’.

In relation to the Bill of Rights Commission, Lord Lester of Herne Hill confirmed ‘I am privileged to serve on the Bill of Rights commission. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Wills, that I would not be there if I thought there was the slightest risk of weakening the current protection of human rights’.

Concluding the debate, Lord McNally, Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice, stated that ‘this country had an amazing role in creating the European Convention on Human Rights. We will go forward in the 21st century as firmly committed to that as the generation who, as was rightly said, experienced personally, at first hand, what happens when the state gets out of control-when it does not have checks and balances, and when there are no human rights’.

Click here for link to debate on parliamentary website

Click here for link to debate (Word version)

EDF briefings on the Localism Bill

The EDF logo.

In May 2011, the Equality and Diversity Forum (EDF) published briefings on the Localism Bill for the House of Commons report stage and the House of Lords second reading.

Second reading in the House of Lords was on 7 June with Committee Stage scheduled to start on 20 and 23 June 2011.

In January 2011, EDF also produced a briefing for the House of Commons second reading of the Localism Bill.

Click here for House of Lords second reading briefing

Click here for House of Commons report stage briefing

Click here for House of Commons second reading briefing

Click here for details of the Bill


Introduction of new public sector Equality Duty and positive action measures

The Government Equalities Office (GEO) logo.

The public sector Equality Duty came into force as planned on 5 April 2011, followed by positive action measures on 6 April.

The aim of the public sector Equality Duty is for public bodies to consider the needs of all individuals in their day to day work, in developing policy, in delivering services, and in relation to their own employees.

Provisions in the Equality Act 2010 related to positive action in recruitment and promotion commenced on 6 April. These voluntary provisions cover the use of positive action in matters of recruitment and employment and can be used by an employer to address under-representation or other forms of disadvantage within the workforce.

Click here for information about the Equality Act 2010 on the Government Equalities Office website