Has the government broken equality law?

Unions and charities call on EHRC to investigate whether the government has broken equality law during pandemic: “This is a time of crisis for women. The coronavirus pandemic is having a significaDear Baroness FalknerWe are writing as a broad coalition of trade unions, women’s organisations and charities in response to the fifth report of the Women and Equalities Select Committee,  ‘ Unequal impact? Coronavirus and the gendered economic impact’ . The select committee’s report reflects our understanding – this is a time of crisis for women. The coronavirus pandemic is having a significant and disproportionate impact on women’s health, jobs and livelihoods.As the report highlights, policy decisions taken by government and other key public bodies in response to coronavirus are worsening the impact of the pandemic and deepening inequalities faced by women. The consequences of these decisions will affect women for years to come.The Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) was put into place to protect women, and those with other protected characteristics, and to ensure ministers were actively considering equality at each stage of any policy-making process. Not retrospectively, to assess the extent of damage that has been done.From the evidence laid out in the report, it is clear the government has failed to meet its obligations under the PSED to protect and promote equality for women at work. To date, we have not seen evidence of compliance either in individual decisions or in any attempt to look at cumulative impact. The Women and Equalities Select Committee report indicates that the government has not carried out Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs), even for their flagship policies such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS). Although EIAs are of course not a specific requirement, they are tangible evidence of meaningful engagement with the PSED. In the absence of EIAs, we are struggling to find other evidence that government has adequately considered the impact of their decisions and taken necessary mitigating steps in the formative stages of policy making.As the Committee note:”The Government acted at considerable speed to design and implement schemes to protect jobs, and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) have provided a vital safety net to millions of people. However, the design of these schemes overlooked – and in some respects continues to overlook – the specific and well-understood labour market and caring inequalities faced by women. This demonstrates the importance of equality analyses.”We recommend that schemes to support employees and the self-employed should be informed by an Equality Impact Assessment, drawing on evidence of existing inequalities. The Government must conduct and publish Equality Impact Assessments of the CJRS and the SEISS alongside its response to this Report.”We welcome the fact that EHRC has, to date, used its expertise to advise Government and Parliament. We note your submission to the Women and Equalities Select Committee inquiry:“Since the Committee’s initial inquiry on the impact of coronavirus on people with protected characteristics,further evidence has emerged pointing to the disproportionate economic impact that coronavirus is having on some women and men.””If the Government fails to fully understand and address this disproportionate impact, such failure may amount to a breach of its domestic and international obligations to promote equality and eliminate discrimination against women in employment.”As the Commission is the body which has statutory responsibility for the promotion and enforcement of equality legislation in England, Scotland and Wales we ask that you use the range of powers at your disposal to deliver on your statutory role. We believe there is a clear and well evidenced need for formal steps to be taken to address potential breaches of the Equality Act, including those relating to PSED.We the under-signed therefore request that you conduct an assessment under s.31 of the Equality Act 2010 to examine whether the government has complied with its obligations under the Public Sector Equality Duty in relation to their policy responses during the Covid-19 crisis.Yours sincerely Frances O’Grady, General Secretary, TUCKate Allen, Director, Amnesty International UKMary-Ann Stephenson, Director, Women’s Budget GroupAli Harris, Chief Executive, Equally OursAnna Whitehouse, Founder, Mother PukkaKate Paradine, CEO, Women in PrisonAbi Shapiro, Interim Chief Executive, Young Women’s TrustDr Wanda Wyporska, Executive Director, The Equality TrustAlison Garnham, Chief Executive, Child Poverty Action GroupCatherine Fookes, Director, Women’s Equality Network (WEN) WalesDan Paskins, Director of UK Impact, Save the Children UKFelicia Willow, CEO, The Fawcett SocietyRos Bragg, Director, Maternity ActionLucy Hadley, Head of Policy and Campaigns, Women’s Aid Federation of EnglandAndy Hull, Chief Executive, EachOtherAnna Ritchie Allan, Executive Director, Close the GapCerys Furlong, Chief Executive, Chwarae TegEstelle du Boulay, Director, Rights of WomenCharlotte Woodworth, Gender Equality Campaigns Director, Business In The CommunityRosie Lewis, Deputy Director, Angelou CentreJoeli Brearley, Founder, Pregnant Then ScrewedAssociate Professor Clare Wenham, Global Health, Gender and Covid-19Centenary Action GroupClare Simpson, Director, Children in Scotland Contacts: TUC press office media@tuc.org.uk 020 7467 1248

2021-02-15 | Movement Politics | English |