Historical Legislative Context

Did you know?

Discriminatory poster (used under Creative Commons license)The first discrimination related legislation was introduced in the UK in 1965 to tackle the common practice at the time “of banning black and minority ethnic (BME) people from using public services or entering public places.”  TUC, 2011.

This fact is particularly poignant for the NHS as in the post war years, when the service was first being established, doctors and nurses had to be recruited from overseas (e.g. The Caribbean) to cope with the rapidly increasing patient numbers. Many of those so recruited were then subject to the discrimination that led to the first legislation being introduced.

Following the first legislation, numerous Acts and Statutory Instruments were subsequently introduced to tackle discriminatory practices. Until 2000, the legislation was generally ‘reactive’ in nature, designed to provide mechanisms for redress when discrimination occurred.

In 1999 the seminal Macpherson Report of the Stephen Lawrence Enquiry identified ‘Institutional Racism’ within the Metropolitan Police as a barrier which prevented an effective investigation into Stephen Lawrence’s murder.  Actions taken by Government in response to the report led to a significant change in the approach to legislation in this area, specifically in relation to ‘public bodies’.

The subsequent Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 placed a General Duty on public bodies to eliminate discrimination, promote race equality and promote good race relations. The Act also placed Specific Duties on public bodies. Together the General and Specific Duties became known as the Public Sector Equality Duties (PSEDs)

Over the next ten years similar legislation was introduced in relation to disability through the Disability Discrimination Act, 2005 and gender through the Equality Act, 2006. Whilst the PSEDs contained in these Acts each had differences in their detail, the underpinning principles were broadly similar in nature.

By this time though there were over 200 different pieces of legislation relating to equalities providing a complex (and often confusing) legislative framework.  As such a Government commitment to rationalising the legislation resulted in the Equality Act 2010.

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