The Government has denied press reports that it will drop the Equality Bill in light of the costly demands it will place on struggling businesses.
It was reported yesterday that Business Secretary Peter Mandelson had suggested the Government sacrifice any planned laws that would be expensive for businesses because of the financial crisis.
But a spokeswoman at the Government Equalities Office has now told Personnel Today: “The Equality Bill is going ahead as planned. Fairness will not be put on the back burner when times get tough.”
“It is due to be introduced in to Parliament in the spring,” she added.
Meanwhile a Department for Business spokesman said: “The government is completely committed to its ambitious agenda of reforming regulation and maintaining essential protections.
“Of course it is right that in the current downturn we look closely at the cost on business and timing of new regulations. But there is no gutting of the legislative programme.”
The Institute of Directors (IoD) says the Government has put the estimated cost to UK businesses of its planned new employment laws at £1 billion per year, with £70.9 million spent on implementing the Equality Bill.
But the IoD has warned this is an underestimate, and says the Government has also exaggerated the potential benefit to the economy.
According to The Times, a confidential memo asked ministers to “advise on a moratorium on legislation and legislative announcements made but not yet implemented that will entail additional costs for businesses”.
The Christian Institute has raised concerns about how the Bill may impact religious liberty.
If it becomes law, the Bill will place a duty on public bodies – like the police and local councils – to promote homosexual and transsexual equality.
It will also allow political parties to use all-women shortlists for candidates until 2030. Some homosexual activists are pressing for all-homosexual shortlists to also be allowed.
Employers will be allowed to increase diversity by choosing to appoint people based on their sex or ethnic background.
Politicians say they want the Equality Bill to “de-clutter” existing discrimination laws. But a survey suggested that more than a third of employers did not think the move would make things clearer.