A proposed draft race equality act reveals that, under a Labour government, the existing right to equal pay for women would be extended to black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) workers for the first time. The comprehensive plans include consultations with business groups and unions, with the phased implementation of the legal right to ensure employers have time to adjust. Back pay would only be applicable from the date of the law change.
Disabled individuals would also be covered, aligning equal pay claims based on ethnicity and disability with the protections already afforded to women.
Additionally, Labour pledges to appoint a Windrush commissioner to oversee the compensation scheme, addressing concerns about its slow rollout and potential relocation from the Home Office. The commissioner would represent the Windrush generation and their families in pursuit of justice.
Labour's commitment to a race equality act stems from promises made by Keir Starmer in 2020, with a taskforce chaired by Doreen Lawrence subsequently established. The party aims to address structural racism, responding to criticisms regarding a lack of detailed plans.
The past decade has witnessed a rise in inequality, exacerbated for BAME families by the pandemic and the cost of living crisis, along with cuts to vital services. Anneliese Dodds, the shadow women and equalities secretary, emphasizes the urgency of achieving race equality, stating that the next Labour government will build on previous achievements, including the Equality Act of 2010.
Proposed measures include protections against "dual discrimination," allowing individuals facing prejudice due to a combination of protected characteristics to bring a single discrimination claim. This would simplify the process for cases involving multiple forms of discrimination, such as sexism and racism. The act would also mandate public services to collect and report data on staffing, pay, and outcomes by ethnicity, covering areas like the NHS, police, schools, and councils.
Labour aims to address broader issues, including the gender pay gap, anti-racism training for police, and a diverse school curriculum. Mental health support access would be expanded, a new target to close maternal health gaps for black and Asian women introduced, and clinical training updated for a more diverse patient population.
Party sources estimate that the proposed act could contribute over £26 billion annually to economic growth by fostering better jobs and secure employment for BAME individuals. However, critics argue that the plans fall short of addressing the systemic nature of racial inequalities and call for a more ambitious, cross-governmental approach with sustained investment in health, housing, wealth, and policing to effectively combat disparities faced by communities of color.