February 2012

Welcome to the February edition of the Equality and Human Rights Commission's enewsletter

Human Rights Review

Launch of our landmark report

Our landmark review of the state of human rights in England and Wales is due to be launched next Monday, 5 March. The report will present the key human rights issues in England and Wales, highlighting areas where society should be more proactively defending and promoting human rights concepts in Britain. Watch the event live on the day and explore the review online at www.equalityhumanrights.com/humanrightsreview.
Read more about the Human Rights Review

Public Sector Equality Duty

Monitoring project update

From February 2012, we are looking at the information supplied by relevant public authorities in England (and non devolved public authorities in Scotland and Wales) to assess to what extent they have published relevant and accessible information to demonstrate their compliance with the duty. A report of findings should be available in spring 2012.
Read more about the Public Sector Equality Duty

Disability Harassment Inquiry

Developing our Manifesto for Change

Thank you to all those who have submitted responses to our consultation on the recommendations from our Hidden in plain sight report. Key points from the consultation will inform our continuing work on the Manifesto for Change, which will be published later this year.
Read more about the Disability Harassment Inquiry

Our equality information

Developing our equality objectives

On 31 January 2012 we published our equality information to show how we comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty. Our equality information helps us identify and understand potential key equality issues across our functions including employment and service delivery areas. We will use this information to develop our equality objectives, which we will publish in April 2012.
Read more about our equality information

More news

Air passenger ruling

The Court of Appeal's dismissal of two discrimination claims supported by the Commission has narrowed the rights of disabled people when flying. The judges decided that international rules on air travel should take precedence over domestic law on accessibility and discrimination onboard aeroplanes. John Wadham, Group Director Legal, said: 'The decision renders the regulation regarding air travel for disabled passengers toothless. It offers no protection for disabled travellers who are discriminated against while flying.'
Read more about the air passenger ruling

Gay discrimination appeal win

The Commission has successfully defended an appeal against a ruling which found that hotel owners had directly discriminated against a gay couple. Mr and Mrs Bull appealed against the County Court’s decision that they were wrong to refuse Mr Preddy and Mr Hall a double room for the night in their hotel. The owners said that their hotel rule, based on their Christian faith, was that no unmarried couples could share a double room. The judges ruled that religious belief does not offer an exemption from laws that everyone running a business has to follow. Equality law already has exemptions for religious organisations, which the judges noted the hotel was not.
Read more about the appeal win

Disability Convention update

In February 2012, the Commission published the second of its regular updates on the activities it is carrying out across Britain to fulfil its role as one of the designated independent bodies which promote, protect and monitor the implementation of the United Nations Convention for the Rights of Disabled People (UNCRPD) in the UK. The other UK designated independent bodies are the Scottish Human Rights Commission, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.
Read more about the Disability Convention

Lawyer wins gay discrimination claim

An Employment Appeal Tribunal has upheld that law firm Bivonas LLP discriminated against lawyer Mr Bennett on the basis of sexual orientation. The lawyer's discrimination claim focused on a memo from one of the firm’s partners. It falsely implied that Mr Bennett only selected gay barristers and said he should be sacked. After lodging a grievance, Mr Bennett says the firm tried to intimidate him into withdrawing his claim. John Wadham, Group Director Legal, said: 'Homophobia will not be tolerated in the workplace or anywhere else. We funded Mr Bennett's defence and this win has set a precedent for discrimination law.'
Read more about the legal case

Bideford Council prayers court ruling

In response to the ruling on prayers in Council meetings, a Commission spokesperson said: 'Many litigants attempt to use the important protections in the Human Rights Act inappropriately. We note that the human rights arguments in this case have been rejected by the judge. We think it unfortunate that a compromise couldn't be reached on this matter, without resorting to legal action.'
Read more about the court ruling

Government's integration strategy

Trevor Phillips, Commission chair, said: 'We welcome the government's announcement of its strategy. The Commission particularly welcomes the government's commitment to tackling intolerance and extremism of all kinds. At a time of increased economic pressures on society the government is right to work towards ensuring that hardship does not lead to increased tension and discrimination.'
Read more about the Government's integration strategy

Wales news

Welsh Government take forward Hidden in Plain Sight recommendations

On 22 February, the National Assembly for Wales held a debate about disability-related harassment, following the Assembly’s Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee into how best to take forward the Commission’s Hidden in Plain Sight recommendations in Wales. The Committee itself came up with 10 key recommendations, which the Welsh Government has committed to taking forward, including the introducing a disability-related harassment framework, drawing together all existing work in Wales and setting a strategic direction. The Commission has been asked to join the strategic group taking this work forward.

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