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Jo Geraghty

Director

Equality before the law

Date added: 17th Aug 2015
Category: Culture of Diversity

Looking at a preliminary assessment of the effectiveness of the Equality Act 2010

At the beginning of July a memorandum was submitted to the Women and Equalities Select Committee, which provided a preliminary assessment of the effectiveness of the Equality Act 2010. The memorandum, which was drawn up by the government equalities office, provided an update on developments since the act was introduced and explored the extent to which the original aims have been achieved.

Key findings included the fact that there was widespread engagement with equalities and with equality legislation with the overwhelming majority of establishments either having a written policy or a clearly set out approach to discrimination issues. Interestingly, over 90% of organisations considered that there was a moral dimension to their approach to equality. However, whilst three quarters of larger organisations have become more aware of their equality responsibilities over the past two years, small and medium organisations report little change in their awareness levels.

The report should be recommended reading for organisations, in that it not only sets out the reasons for equalities legislation but also provides some helpful case studies. Interestingly, the Parliamentary report coincides with a report from the bar Council in respect of gender equality amongst barristers. This report reveals that although over half of those called to the bar are women, and indeed women achieved gender equality in this area some 14 years ago, men have an 8% higher probability of practising. Furthermore, the percentage of women who are QCs has remained at under 20% for the past 13 years.

Commenting to the Law Society Gazette the head of equality and diversity at the bar Council, Sam Mercer, said ‘The self-employed nature of the profession is a significant barrier to those who wish to have a family and stay in practice and legal aid cuts are making retention even more difficult as incomes fall and childcare costs rise.’

Interestingly, when it comes to other areas of equality, the legal profession is performing comparatively well. For example, the bar has already achieved its target for black, Asian and minority ethnic people practising although there is some way to go before this translates into those practising at silk level.

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