Posted on May 18, 2012

Harriet Harman’s Public Sector Equality Laws to Be Scrapped

Rowena Mason and John Bingham, Telegraph (London), May 16, 2012

The Home Secretary is planning to get rid of powers that allow companies to be sued if their staff are harassed by customers or clients.

This currently leaves businesses open to lawsuits if they have not stopped members of the public making racist, sexist or “ageist” remarks to their employees.

Mrs May is also hoping to scrap rules that allow people who win discrimination cases to force their employers to change their practices.

The measures were brought in during the last days of the previous Labour government under the Equality Act championed by Harriet Harman, the former minister and deputy leader.

Yesterday, Mrs May also said she would speed up a review of whether public bodies should be forced to promote diversity as a legal requirement.

She revealed in November 2010 that the Home Office would seek to remove this “ridiculous” burden.

Dominic Raab, the Conservative MP for Esher and Walton, who has been critical of aspects of the equality agenda, said the Government is “right to take a second look at these ludicrous measures”.

“They add costs to business, and far from promoting equality they are socially divisive,” he said.

“In particular, the proposal that hard-pressed 25,000 schools, councils and other public bodies have to fill in forms explaining how they are promoting diversity — at a cost of over £20 million per year to the taxpayer — should be scrapped without delay.”

The Home Office will also “shrink” the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to make sure the quango is “using taxpayers’ money wisely”.

Mark Hammond, chief executive of the EHRC, said the body has “worked hard to put right management and accounting issues”, as well as cutting down travel costs and expenses.

The Home Office is currently “consulting” on the changes before deciding whether to press ahead.