Call for evidence - House of Lords Select Committee on the Equality Act 2010 and Disability

Date published: 
4 September 2015

The DLA has responded in two separate ways to the House of Lords Select Committee on the Equality Act and Disability's call for evidence (details: here).  Its remit was "to consider and report on the impact on people with disabilities of the Equality Act 2010".  The DLA response was greatly assisted by a number of very valuable contributions provided by DLA members.  Many thanks to all those who responded.

ORAL REPONSE

The DLA was very pleased to be invited by the House of Lords Select Committee on the Equality Act and Disability to give oral evidence on Tuesday 8 September, jointly with the Law Society, the Bar Council and the Law Centres Network. Barbara Cohen, a member of our Executive Committee represented the DLA.  About 10 days before the session DLA received a list of questions which the Committee wished the witnesses to discuss. These related primarily to how well disability rights under the Equality Act are being enforced, including questions on the impact of employment tribunal fees, the effect of changes to legal aid for discrimination claims, whether reliance on individual litigation is effective, are there other methods of enforcement that could work better. The Committee also asked how the PSED could provide more effective outcomes, how effective has the EHRC been in promoting and enforcing compliance with the 2010 Act, and are there gaps in the current legislation.

Before the session the representatives of all four organisations discussed their particular concerns; there was a general consensus that few changes were needed to the law but all of the organisations stressed the importance of effective enforcement which currently is not possible due to the combination of high fees and the lack of access to skilled legal advice. The four organisations are working together to submit to the Committee a joint list of recommendations, which subsequently will be posted on the DLA website.

The full session can be viewed here

And a complete transcript of this session as well as Committee sessions with other witnesses can be found here

You can also read a report on the session in the Disability News Service here

 

WRITTEN REPONSE

The DLA has also submitted a very comprehensive written response to the Select Committee's call for evidence.

You can read the DLA’s written response here

You can read a summary of the DLA’s conclusions below

SUMMARY 

  1. The Equality Act (EA) has enabled wider understanding of disability discrimination since its protections apply to everyone, although under the EA there may have been a loss of focus on disability issues, which necessarily involve specific and unique provisions. 
  2. The definition of disability in the EA remains a stumbling block for many claimants.
  3. There are gaps in the law exposed by case law, provisions in the EA which would strengthen disability equality rights which are not yet in force and repealed provisions that should be restored.
  4. Far too often the reasonable adjustment duties and the stages contained in the definition are not understood by disabled people or by employers, service providers and others. In the ET this can limit a claimant’s arguments and prospects of succeeding. There is insufficient awareness of the anticipatory nature of the duty outside of employment.
  5. There is an urgent need for review and up-dating of guidance on reasonable adjustments, drawing on EA case law in the statutory Codes of Practice (and issuing of new Codes with such guidance for other areas covered by the EA).
  6. A positive aspect of the reasonable adjustment duty in the EA is its flexibility both in terms of the barriers to which it can be applied and the nature and form of the adjustments.
  7. There is no doubt that the public sector equality duty (PSED) has contributed to the achievement of the aims of the EA. State institutions have been made to see the need to change policies and practices, most often without litigation. A serious gap, however, is non-compliance by external bodies carrying out public functions.
  8. The EHRC, now with reduced remit and resources, has failed to use its enforcement powers as parliament had intended, and generally has not given the leadership it might have done to challenge discrimination and advance equality
  9. Enforcement of rights against disability discrimination has been severely impeded by the imposition of ET fees, increased County Court fees, drastic cuts to legal aid and severely reduced access to quality legal advice. The effect is the removal of any imperative on employers or service providers to avoid discrimination.

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HoL SC on EqA and Disability call-for-evidence.pdf187.45 KB