The Guardian has obtained a draft of a race equality act that outlines plans for a Labour government to grant black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) workers the same right to equal pay as women currently have. This would be a first-time extension of equal pay rights to BAME workers.
After discussing with business organizations and labor unions, the legal entitlement will be introduced gradually to allow employers to adjust to paying their employees fairly. Any back pay will only be granted once the law has been modified.
The proposed adjustment would extend to individuals with disabilities and result in equal pay claims based on race and disability receiving the same treatment as those made by women. Currently, women have stricter protections under the law.
If Labour wins the general election, they would also name a Windrush commissioner to oversee the payment program. The program has been criticized for its delayed implementation and may be relocated from the Home Office if improvements are not made.
A commissioner would revive the Home Office team responsible for revamping the department following the scandal, which was dissolved last year. They would also serve as an advocate for the Windrush generation and their loved ones in their pursuit of justice.
In 2020, Keir Starmer initially made a pledge to introduce a race equality act. Following this, he formed a taskforce led by Doreen Lawrence. However, the lack of specific plans from the party raised concerns about their dedication to addressing systemic racism.
In the past ten years, there has been an increase in inequality, particularly affecting BAME families due to the pandemic and rising living costs. Additionally, they have been heavily impacted by budget cuts to vital services such as the NHS, education, and the criminal justice system.
According to Anneliese Dodds, the opposition’s spokesperson for women and equalities, it is crucial to achieve racial equality. The current government has contributed to a significant increase in inequality and many families from black, Asian, and ethnic minority backgrounds are facing challenges in their efforts to make a living. This not only affects their families, but also hinders the growth of the economy.
“We take great pride in our accomplishments in the realm of governance, from the significant implementation of the Equality Act in 2010 to the enhancement of safeguards against discrimination. The upcoming Labour administration will continue to push even harder to guarantee that individuals from all parts of the UK, regardless of their background, have the opportunity to prosper.”
The party will unveil proposed protections on Monday to prevent “dual discrimination”, which occurs when individuals face prejudice due to a combination of protected characteristics. These protections were initially introduced by Harriet Harman in the 2010 Equality Act.
A woman who is both black and faces sexism or a Muslim woman who is abused for wearing a headscarf would only need to file one discrimination claim, instead of separate claims for each protected characteristic.
The Labour party stated that this would have a positive impact on various groups, such as women facing discrimination during menopause, and also help alleviate backlogs in the tribunal system.
The updated legislation would require public institutions such as the NHS, police, schools, and councils to gather and disclose information on their personnel, compensation, and, if applicable, results based on ethnicity.
Some actions that have already been declared, but would be included in the law, are requiring companies to report their ethnicity pay gap, making sure police officers and employees receive anti-racism training, and examining the school curriculum to ensure it includes diversity.
The Labour party has announced plans to increase availability of mental health resources, implement a new goal to address disparities in maternal health for black and Asian women, and enhance clinical training to better cater to a diverse patient demographic.
According to party sources, the new legislation will aid in achieving its main goal of promoting economic growth by providing better job opportunities and stable employment for individuals from BAME backgrounds. They estimate that this could result in a yearly increase of salaries worth over £26 billion.
According to Dr. Shabna Begum, the temporary leader of the Runnymede Trust, a thinktank focused on race equality, the race equality act proposed by Labour is a necessary shift away from the negative and damaging policies that have been in place under previous administrations.
“We are pleased to see several commitments that aim to tackle discrimination in the workplace and the lack of representation in school curricula. We also appreciate the promise to implement the principle of dual discrimination, acknowledging the interconnectedness of different forms of discrimination.”
Unfortunately, the plans do not fully address the immense level of inequalities that impact the experiences and opportunities of individuals of color.
“To effectively address systemic racial inequality, it is important to recognize that racism is not just a result of the system’s failures, but rather ingrained within the system itself.”
The Race Equality Act should serve as a foundation for Labour to make a strong commitment to a comprehensive, cross-government strategy that involves continuous funding to tackle the unacceptable, and in some cases worsening, gaps in health, housing, wealth, and policing that communities of color continue to face.