The government has outlined far reaching plans to promote ‘positive discrimination’, strengthen employee redress and conduct sector enquiries

The UK government has outlined its plans to streamline and strengthen discrimination legislation in the Equality Bill.

The government wants to readjust what is sees as discrimination against women, disabled people, the elderly and ethnic minorities.

According to government statistics women are paid on average 12.6% less per hour than men; disabled people are more likely to be out of work; ethnic minorities are a fifth less likely to find work; and two thirds of over-fifties feel that they are turned down for a job because they are too old.

The Equality Bill will replace nine major pieces of legislation and around 100 other measures, from the 1970 Equal Pay Act through to the 2005 Disability Discrimination Act.

The government plans include:

Moves that are set to promote ‘positive discrimination’, whereby employers are encouraged to take under representation into account when deciding between two equally qualified candidates.

Local authorities could, for example, promote more women to higher positions or recruit more black, Asian and ethnic minority candidates.

Powers to ban unjustified age discrimination, things that help older people, such as free bus passes, will still be allowed.

“The TUC welcomed the government initiative. General secretary Brendan Barber called it a 'landmark' towards delivering equality.

To help improve transparency, the Bill will ban ‘gagging clauses’ so that work colleagues can compare wages and challenge employers who unlawfully pay them less.

The Government also plans to strengthen the law to give employees who have faced discrimination tougher redress. It is considering whether there is a case for representative actions.

The Bill will allow Employment Tribunals to make recommendations that will benefit the whole workforce not just the individual who brought the case.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission will conduct a series of sector inquiries, for example into the gender pay gap in financial services.

The Government expects businesses to regard reporting on their progress on equality as an important part of explaining the prospects for the company.

Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality said the Bill would ‘streamline’ and ‘strengthen’ existing laws.

The TUC welcomed the government initiative. General secretary Brendan Barber called it a ‘landmark’ towards delivering equality.

The Bill is expected to be introduced in the next Parliamentary session, which starts in December.