The Equality Act 2010 was a long time in the making, beginning life in the form of the Discrimination Law Review which began its work back in 2005. Its aim was to simplify and harmonise the complicated web of legislation that had emerged over the previous thirty or so years in response to a growing recognition of the corrosive effects that discrimination in its various guises has on our society. When the Act finally made it onto the statute book in April 2010 it was hailed as a major landmark; providing for the first time comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation that provides a solid platform from which to tackle discrimination based on disability, gender and gender identity, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation and crucially from Age UK’s perspective, age. However there was also a widespread recognition on the part of all those who champion greater equality that this was where the real work had to begin. For the law to be effective a major effort was now needed to make sure that everyone; employers and employees, businesses and customers, service providers and clients, all understood how the law worked and how greater equality would benefit them and their organisations.
Against this backdrop the Government’s decision to include the Equality Act in its Red Tape Challenge initiative, which aims to identify regulations that hurt businesses, hinder economic recovery and should therefore be scrapped, has been greeted with a certain degree of apprehension. Describing primary legislation that was designed specifically to harmonise and simplify equality law in the language of bureaucracy and burden is hugely detrimental to efforts Age UK is making to help businesses recognise the benefits of tackling age discrimination which stands in the way of them accessing the ‘golden market’. It is also questionable whether now is the best time for this review, before all the provisions of the Act, including vital measures to outlaw harmful age discrimination in the provision of goods and services, have even been implemented.
The Red Tape Challenge website is currently running a ‘spotlight’ on equalities that is running from 9 – 30 June 2011 and members of the public are invited to comment of these issues. The positive news is that so far the vast majority of comments posted have been very supportive of the legislation and express dismay at the thought that it could be scrapped. To make sure that the Government hears loud and clear the message that equality law is valued by older people, we are urging all our blog readers to add their voices to the debate by posting their views on the website.