"The general duty places a proactive responsibility upon all public bodies to ensure that their services, practices and policies are developed with the different needs of women and men in mind. This will lead to a more inclusive society with high quality contemporary services - targeted to meet the specific needs of men and women."2
Interestingly, this Act has already brought legal challenges. On 21 March 2007 the House of Lords refused to remove the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, which came into force on 30 April. Catholic adoption agencies had routinely refused to place children with gay couples. The government gave the Catholic adoption agencies an additional 21 months to prepare, but as Baroness Andrews told the House:
"At present there are 116 separate pieces of equality legislation in force - 35 Acts, 52 statutory instruments, 13 codes of practice, and 16 European Commission directives and recommendations. They come with 2,500 pages of guidance."3
It is expected that a forthcoming European Union Dire...
They come with 2,500 pages of guidance."3
It is expected that a forthcoming European Union Directive will require further legislation that will seek to provide redress for those discriminated against in the provision of goods and services on the grounds of gender reassignment.
Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), was quoted as saying:
"Even the most well-intentioned businesses, and there are an awful lot of them, don't know when they've complied [with the existing laws]. It's almost impossible unless you have vast armies of bureaucrats." 4
Mr Phillips alleged that many businesses resented the waste of time and money involved in being taken to an Employment Tribunal. Over a quarter of a million calls were received in 2007 from lawyers trying to comprehend the legislation5.
For some time public bodies have been at pains to promote inclusion rather than anti-discrimination. The figures clearly show that direct and indirect discrimination continues to be used to exclude citizens from attaining self-fulfilment in the public domain, particularly in the workplace. For example, according to the Equal Opportunities publication 'Facts about Men and Women in Great Britain'6 women in full-time employment earn 18% less than their male counterparts, 45% of pregnant women allege discrimination in the workplace, whilst UK fathers work the longest average weekly hours in the EU.
The difficulty for Parliament is to provide legislation which protects citizens from bigotry in all walks of public life, while not over-burdening businesses or other organisations - such as the voluntary and social economy - with time