Equality and human rights legal framework – UK Government assessment
The exclusion of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights from domestic law represents a significant reduction in human rights protections. The Coronavirus Act, emergency legislation which was subjected to limited scrutiny, includes provisions that weaken human rights protections, and the equality and human rights impact of measures has not been closely scrutinised. 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.
- The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 excludes the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights from domestic law, resulting in the loss of some rights protections, including the freestanding right to equality of treatment. We are concerned that the loss of some of these rights will make it harder for individuals to enforce their fundamental rights.
- There are concerns about the potential impact of the loss of EU funding for projects that have implications for human rights.
- The UK Government has maintained its position not to incorporate UN human rights treaties into domestic law.
- The UK Government has stated its commitment to remain signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, but it is unclear how any potential changes to the Human Rights Act will affect human rights protections.
- The Coronavirus Act 2020, fast-tracked through both Houses of Parliament in four sitting days, has led to significant changes in the UK’s legal framework. Although introduced as temporary legislation, it includes provisions which, when exercised, weaken human rights protections, including diluting the duty on local authorities to meet, and removing the duty to assess, the needs of people who need care and support.
- Though the Coronavirus Act 2020 contains provisions to facilitate scrutiny of the legislation, including reports to Parliament every two months on the status of implementation of its provisions, the first four reports failed to consider the equality and human rights impact of the measures.
- The UK Government has signalled that it will not bring the socio-economic duty under 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.
- In October 2019, the UK Government declined to reform the Equality Act ‘specific duties’ 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 designed to mainstream equality within public bodies.
- In July 2018, the UK Government announced its intention to repeal section 9(5)(a) of the Equality Act 2010 which enables ministers to amend the statutory definition of race to include caste. The decision leaves victims of caste discrimination with limited legal protection.
- The UK Government has maintained its position that there is insufficient evidence to justify introducing section 14 of the Equality Act 2010, which prohibits dual discrimination.
- In September 2020, the 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), but declined to de-medicalise the system for legal gender recognition or to move to a system of self-identification that some groups have been calling for.
Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on the equality and human rights legal framework.