...free to think freely


6th February 2024

Complicating things further

Labour, if elected, would add to the current Equality Act further acts specifying particular forms of discrimination and providing further remedies. The exact details of this provision is unknown for now as a bill would only be published after a Labour government is formed, but already we see politicians’ apparent inability to kick their inbred habits.

The bill in question would relate to equal pay irrespective of ethnic origin. This is odd in a practical sense because under the current Equality Act such discrimination is already outlawed, so it is hard to understand what a separate and apparently redundant law would achieve in practice other, perhaps, than increasing penalties or simplifying procedure if someone believes they have been unfairly treated on two different bases at the same time. Would that not be better achieved by modifying the existing law than adding a confusing new one?

Modern politicians seem incapable of such common sense. They believe the answer to every problem is a new law, rather than working out why the present law fails to achieve its purpose and doing something about that. Making new laws is cheap and solving real problems is not.

There is a second problem. It is highly unlikely a business would take a minuted decision to pay people more or less depending on their ethnicity. It is more likely discrimination at the stage where decisions are taken, when selecting people for promotion, might be on grounds not really relevant to the job. Even then, unravelling the reasons for preferring one candidate over another in a complex calculation involving multiple qualifications both technical and personal is hardly likely to be straightforward. Working out whether the decision was unfair on the basis of race would be difficult enough, let alone proving it to a legal standard. I suspect it would be highly unlikely that would be the conscious basis of a decision, whereas cultural effects and consequent perceptions of personality, or individual preferences within interpersonal relationships might well play a subconscious part in producing a ‘gut feeling’.

Ethnic differences are more likely to be apparent in statistics than individual cases, but even then, the underlying reasons would require further study to discern whether innocent explanations could exist.

Such analysis would be useful in understanding where injustice could hide in our society and could be refined enough to inform future legislation, but legislation needs to address principles of justice and truth. What Labour appears to propose is more of the same patchwork of law addressing superficial manifestations while leaving the underlying injustice unaddressed. We need a more mature approach to law.