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Sex discrimination law review launched

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The Fawcett Society, new project, review, women's rights, UK law, EU law, Brexit“We have an ambitious vision, to make the UK the best place to be a woman.”

The Fawcett Society has launched a project aiming to review the UK’s sex discrimination laws and wants to gather evidence from a wide range of individuals, organisations, legal experts, employers and trade unions.

This review has been established in response to concerns that women’s rights may be eroded or weakened as a result of the UK leaving the European Union (Brexit).

But the review will also consider the effectiveness of current laws and how best to balance the rights of the individual with the responsibilities of an organisation.

The review has a broad remit, including:

Employment law and discrimination – including pregnancy discrimination, sexist dress codes, and equal pay – including pension provision;

The application of the definition of indirect discrimination;

Family-friendly rights for parents and carers – including possible consolidation;

Harassment – including on the internet and social media;

Hate crime and its limits;

Multiple discrimination, particularly intersectional discrimination and whether Section 14 of the Equality Act 2010 in its current form is sufficient;

Public sector equality duty and specific duties;

The balance of individual rights vs the responsibility of an organisation to promote equality; and

Access to justice.

The questions they want you to consider are: What are the rights you want to protect? Where are the gaps in our legislative framework? What works well now? What doesn’t work well? What do needs to put in place for the future? Have you experienced discrimination or harassment. Did the law work for you?

The review will be headed by Dame Laura Cox, a retired High Court Justice, and co-ordinated by equality law expert Gay Moon.

Cox said: “Some of the basic rights that we now take for granted – pregnancy and maternity rights, part-time workers’ rights, equal pay for work of equal value – are all at risk if the UK becomes a low regulation economy.

“But this isn’t just about protecting what we have, it’s also about addressing gaps or uncertainties in the laws currently in place and ensuring that women have access to the law.

“For example, a woman of colour, or an older woman, cannot bring a discrimination claim on the grounds of their dual identity.

“Is that acceptable in the 21st century? Is it acceptable that misogyny is not recognised as a hate crime?

“And we still have a gender pay gap, which is acknowledged to be unacceptable.

“How best can our laws be improved so as to assist in closing it?

“These are the kinds of issues we will be considering.”

Panel members include a number of leading QCs and equality law experts. The review is set to last for approximately 9 months and will report in the autumn.

Written submissions can be sent here.

These may include articles or reports which are already in the public domain and that you want to bring to their attention.

The panel will hold its first meeting on 6 March and in that meeting will be focussing on employment including pregnancy discrimination, family friendly rights for parents and carers, sexist dress codes, pay, pensions, and intersectional discrimination.

If you are submitting evidence on these issues, please do so by 6 March.

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, said: “The Prime Minister has made the welcome commitment that she wants the UK to be a fairer place, that she will not only protect workers’ rights but build on them.

“We share that goal.

“We have an ambitious vision, to make the UK the best place to be a woman.”

“But to achieve that we need to create a legislative framework fit for the 21st century. One that genuinely protects the rights of the individual – rights that they can exercise by giving them access to justice -and promotes equality.

“The PM has also made clear that if necessary she will take the UK down a low tax low regulation path. That can only mean us turning the clock back on women’s rights – and we cannot allow that to happen.”

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