Friday, April 03, 2009

Updated position on Equality Bill provisions for discrimination based on “Perception”

The Leader of the House of Commons, Ms Harriet Harman, yesterday made an important announcement in Parliament concerning the Government's planned approach towards protections relating to discrimination that is related to either perception or association. That is, it deals with cases where people are motivated to discriminate against someone either because they associate with a member of a particular equality target group, or because they perceive someone (rightly or wrongly) to belong to that group.

Her statement is reproduced in full from Hansard below.

Cabinet Office

Equality Bill

The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): In Great Britain, we already provide protection against direct discrimination and harassment that arises because the victim is wrongly perceived to belong or subscribe to a particular race, religion or belief, or to have a particular sexual orientation. Direct discrimination and harassment arising from association with a person of a particular race, religion or belief or with a particular sexuality are also prohibited.

The Government's response to the consultation on reform of discrimination law(1), published on 21 July 2008, set out how we proposed to deal with direct discrimination and harassment based on perception and association in the Equality Bill. But we also made it clear that we would need to consider carefully the terms of the judgment of the European Court of Justice in the Coleman case(2), published on 17 July 2008, before determining the final approach for the Equality Bill.

I am today announcing that we have decided to extend the prohibition against associative and perceptive direct discrimination and harassment to other strands and areas where this does not currently apply. The Equality Bill will therefore prohibit direct discrimination and harassment based on association and perception in respect of race, sex, gender reassignment, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief and age and in relation to both employment and areas beyond this, such as goods, facilities and services.

This extension will implement the Coleman judgment in Great Britain and the extension to other protected characteristics is in keeping with the aims of the Equality Bill to simplify and strengthen the law.

(1)Cm 7454

(2)Coleman v Attridge Law and another (Case C-303/06).

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