Labour's Pledge for Race Equality

In a bid to address longstanding disparities, a draft race equality act from the Labour party promises important changes to extend equal pay rights to black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) workers. The proposed legislation, if implemented, would mirror the existing protections for women, marking a significant step towards creating a fairer and more inclusive society.

Equal Pay for Equal Work

Under the proposed race equality act, the legal right to equal pay would be extended to BAME workers, offering the same level of protection currently afforded to women. The plan involves a phased approach, allowing employers to adapt gradually, with back pay applicable from the date of the legal change. Disabled individuals would also benefit from these extended rights.

Addressing Historic Inequalities

The Labour party aims to tackle historic inequalities faced by BAME communities, who have borne the brunt of the pandemic, the cost of living crisis, and cuts to vital services. Anneliese Dodds, the shadow women and equalities secretary, stressed the urgency of delivering race equality, citing the increasing challenges faced by BAME families. The proposed legislation is part of Labour's commitment to creating an environment where everyone, regardless of background, can thrive.

Overseeing Justice

In addition to equal pay provisions, Labour pledges to appoint a Windrush commissioner to monitor and expedite the compensation scheme. Criticised for its slow rollout, the scheme has been a source of concern, and the party proposes relocating it from the Home Office if improvements are not seen. The commissioner would advocate for the Windrush generation, ensuring their voices are heard during the pursuit of justice.

A Long-Awaited Race Equality Act

The idea of a race equality act was first introduced by Keir Starmer in 2020, and a taskforce, led by Doreen Lawrence, was subsequently established. However, the lack of detailed proposals led to concerns about the party's commitment to combating structural racism. With this draft act, Labour aims to provide a comprehensive framework for addressing racial disparities.

Combatting "Dual Discrimination"

One key aspect of the proposed act is protection against "dual discrimination," where people face prejudice due to a combination of protected characteristics. For example, a black woman experiencing both sexism and racism could file a single discrimination claim instead of separate claims for each characteristic. This streamlined approach is expected to benefit various groups, including women facing discrimination during menopause, while also reducing backlogs in the tribunal system.

Public Services Duty and Data Collection

The draft act outlines a duty for public services, including the NHS, police, schools, and councils, to collect and report data on staffing, pay, and outcomes by ethnicity. This move towards transparency aims to shed light on existing disparities within public institutions. Mandating ethnicity pay gap reporting, anti-racism training for police officers, and a curriculum review for diversity in schools are among the specific measures included.

Mental Health Support and Maternal Health Targets

Labour's proposals go beyond workplace equality. The party promises to expand access to mental health support, introduce targets to address maternal health gaps for black and Asian women, and update clinical training to better serve diverse patient populations. These measures reflect a commitment to tackling systemic issues affecting various aspects of individuals' lives.

Unlocking Economic Growth and Closing Gaps

Labour contends that the proposed race equality act aligns with its core mission of unlocking economic growth through better jobs and secure employment for BAME people. The party estimates that such initiatives could contribute over £26 billion annually in increased salaries. Dr. Shabna Begum from the Runnymede Trust acknowledges the positive steps but urges Labour to address broader structural racial inequalities.

Room for Improvement

While welcoming many aspects of Labour's proposals, the Runnymede Trust suggests that the plans fall short of comprehensively addressing deep-rooted racial inequalities. The call is for a more ambitious, cross-governmental approach with sustained investment to tackle disparities in health, housing, wealth, and policing.

Positive Changes

Labour's draft race equality act represents a significant stride towards a fairer and more equitable society. By addressing historical injustices, extending equal pay rights, and implementing broader measures, the party aims to create a future where every person, regardless of background, can thrive.