Equality and human rights legal framework – UK Government assessment
There has been a sustained or severe regression in the enjoyment of human rights, or a significant reduction in human rights standards or protections in law or policy
The UK Government has rejected several recommendations to strengthen equality and human rights legislation, including introducing the Socio-economic Duty in England and incorporating international treaty rights into domestic law. If the Bill of Rights Bill moves forward as previously drafted, it would significantly weaken human rights protections and access to justice. The ratification of the Istanbul Convention is a positive step, although we are concerned that a reservation has been made that limits protection for migrant women.
- The UK Government’s Bill of Rights Bill would have repealed and replaced the Human Rights Act. The Bill was paused on 7 September 2022. We raised concerns that the Bill, as previously drafted, could weaken human rights protections and reduce access to redress for breaches of human rights.
- In taking the important step to ratify the Istanbul Convention, the UK Government has agreed to be bound under international law to meet the Convention’s obligations in respect of prevention of violence against women and girls and the protection of victims. The UK Government should carefully consider the implications of continuing its reservations to articles 44(3) and 59 of the Convention, in particular to ensure effective protection for migrant victims.
- The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 excluded the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights from domestic law, resulting in the loss of some rights protections, including the free-standing right to equality of treatment.
- The UK Government has maintained its position not to incorporate UN human rights treaties into domestic law, which would make those rights enforceable in UK courts, although a number of UN treaty rights are reflected in domestic legislation.
- The Coronavirus Act 2020 led to significant changes in the UK’s legal framework. Although introduced as temporary legislation to protect life, it was subjected to limited scrutiny and included provisions that, when exercised, weakened human rights protections.
- The UK Government has signalled that it will not bring the Socio-economic Duty, introduced by the Equality Act 2010, into force in England. The duty requires public bodies, when making strategic decisions, to consider how their decisions might help to reduce inequalities associated with socio-economic disadvantage.
- Section 106 of the Equality Act 2010, which requires political parties to publish information about the diversity of their candidates, remains unimplemented.
- The UK Government has maintained its position that there is insufficient evidence to justify implementing section 14 of the Equality Act 2010, which prohibits dual discrimination.
- In October 2019, the UK Government declined to reform the Equality Act 2010 ‘specific duties’ for England under the Public Sector Equality Duty, following a recommendation by the Women and Equalities Committee to make the duties more strategic. The specific duties are intended to enable better compliance with the general duty.
- In July 2018, the UK Government announced its intention to repeal section 9(5)(a) of the Equality Act 2010, which requires ministers to amend the statutory definition of race to include caste. The decision leaves victims of caste discrimination with limited legal protection.
- In September 2020, the UK Government’s response to its 2018 consultation on the Gender Recognition Act 2004 announced welcome steps to move the system online and reduce the application fee for a gender recognition certificate (GRC) to £5, but decided against enabling trans people to obtain a GRC without a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and evidence that they have lived in their acquired gender for two years.
Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on the equality and human rights legal framework.