Equality Bill burden worries small shops

The Equality Bill will heap more costs and bureaucracy on small stores, the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has warned MPs.

It said new measures in the Bill could see small shops facing the “distressing prospect” of multiple employment tribunals under new rules for dealing with employee grievances.

Carrying out the proposed gender pay audits would pile on an additional administrative burden, the group warned.

“In a business where staff turnover is high, and where this data is unlikely to be collated centrally, such a requirement would represent a significant burden,” said ACS Chief Executive James Lowman.

“The convenience store sector employs around 250,000 staff who value the local, flexible and social aspects of working in their local shop,” Mr Lowman said.

“We absolutely support legal standards to support employees but we fear that the measures proposed in the Equality Bill will just heap more costs and bureaucracy on small stores.”

The Equality Bill is a wide-ranging new package of measures designed to bring different strands of discrimination law into one single piece of legislation.

In recent months other groups including the Royal College of Nursing, British Chambers of Commerce and the Confederation of British Industry have all warned of the cost burden the Bill threatens to impose.

Christian groups are concerned about the impact the Bill could have on religious liberty.

Under the current law, religious groups can restrict posts to Christians whose private conduct is consistent with the Bible’s teaching on sexual ethics. These posts must be for the purposes of organised religion, which could include jobs like a youth worker.

But under the Equality Bill the Government is specifying that this protection can only apply to posts that mainly involve leading worship or explaining doctrine.

The Bill’s explanatory notes make it clear that this protection “would not apply to a requirement that a church youth worker or accountant be heterosexual”.

Willam Fittall of the Church of England told MPs this week: “A faith organisation is entitled to look at the totality of someone’s life.

“The distinction that is drawn in most employment situations between private life and the workplace does not hold where people have a representational, pastoral or teaching role.”

He added: “You might believe that some of our rules and disciplines are wrong, but our view is that that is a matter of religious liberty – a matter for the Church of England, Roman Catholics, the Jews or whoever.”

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