News from the Equality and Human Rights Commission
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Report to the UN Convention Against Torture: military personnel
must be held accountable for crimes committed overseas
In our follow up report to the United Nations Committee Against
Torture (CAT), we are calling for the UK Government to withdraw
plans that could make it more difficult to hold UK military
personnel to account for crimes (including torture and
ill-treatment) committed overseas. We are concerned that the
Overseas Operations Bill, introduced by the Government in March
2020, would create a time limit for claims of torture or
ill-treatment. This is widely recognised as being incompatible
with international human rights standards.
In June 2019 CAT specifically recommended that the UK should not
introduce legislation which would grant amnesty or pardon for UK
personnel where torture is concerned. We are pressing the
Government to withdraw proposals that would prevent a criminal
case being brought against members of the UK forces after five
years, without special consent from the Attorney General.
Our submission to CAT specifically focuses on the accountability
for any torture and ill-treatment committed by UK personnel in
Iraq from 2003 to 2009. It also includes recommendations that, if
implemented, would see the UK strengthen its commitment to the
international human rights framework and the Convention against
Our full report, including recommendations, has been submitted to
CAT as part of the sixth periodic report of the United Kingdom
and Northern Ireland.
Read the report and recommendations ( [link removed] )
Infographic: 76% of the public say prejudice against trans
people is wrong
Research reveals positive attitudes to transgender people
Research commissioned by us and carried out last year as part of
NatCen’s British Social Attitudes survey has shown that
the majority of the public view transphobia as wrong and believe
that they are not personally prejudiced towards transgender
Over three quarters (76%) of people surveyed believed prejudice
against transgender people was always or mostly wrong. Over 80%
of people also believed they were not prejudiced against
transgender people. The vast majority of respondents believed
that trans people are suitable for roles with a high level
of public responsibility, such as police officers and school
However, the research also demonstrates a more nuanced debate
when it comes to specific circumstances, such as accessing
'single sex' services including women’s refuges and the use of
public toilets. Whilst a majority of respondents agreed that they
were comfortable with trans women having access to these spaces,
the percentage of those who were comfortable or very comfortable
with this had fallen in the three years since a similar survey
was last carried out.
Read the full research ( [link removed] )
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Our position on Gender Recognition Act reform
Our Chief Executive Rebecca Hilsenrath writes that we must
build an environment where the issues raised by GRA reform can be
freely discussed, in an atmosphere of tolerance, dignity and
respect, whilst reiterating the Commission's position on Gender
Recognition Act reform. In her blog she also calls for changes
to the requirement for spousal consent on the continuation of the
legal relationship when a trans person is seeking a Gender
Recognition Certificate in England and Wales.
Read Rebecca's blog ( [link removed] )
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Sainsbury's takes action to eliminate harassment
Leading supermarket Sainsbury's has signed a legally binding
agreement with us to take concerted action to prevent harassment
in its workplaces. This follows an employment tribunal case taken
by a member of its staff, where the supermarket was found liable
for sexual harassment.
Whilst we recognised that the household name had made
improvements to its understanding, policies, practices and
procedures since the judgement, we reached the view that further
progress could be made and, as an alternative to an
investigation, suggested an agreement. Sainsbury's willingly
agreed to work with us to ensure that similar incidents cannot
happen again in future.
The supermarket has now signed a Section 23 agreement (under the
Equality Act 2006) which requires it to take all reasonable steps
to prevent its employees from committing harassment, including:
* Preparing a discrimination guide for line managers and
* Advising staff on how to deal with harassment through internal
* Establishing more effective mandatory training for its
* Providing regular reports to us on its progress
The agreement will last for eighteen months from this summer.
Find out more ( [link removed] )
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DWP to improve service access for disabled customers
Following complaints that they did not provide interpreters for
deaf customers accessing their services by telephone, the
Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) have come to a legally
binding agreement with us to improve their service to disabled
Through our helpline for advisers ( [link removed] ), a complaint was raised on behalf of four hearing-impaired
people who had faced difficulties in dealing with staff from DWP
and Serco who didn’t know how to arrange sign language
DWP have now committed to an action plan to address the problems
and to improve access to its services for disabled customers.
This agreement commits DWP to:
* Providing a Video Relay Service (VRS) across telephony services
for all benefits and services.
* Ensuring customers can easily locate what they need in order to
request information in alternative accessible formats.
* Improving their customer information system so disabled
people’s communication needs are recorded and shared.
* Improving the use of Equality Analysis in the design and
delivery of all changes.
We will monitor DWP’s action plan on a monthly basis.
Find out more ( [link removed] )
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Help us improve the guidance we provide to organisations in
England subject to the Public Sector Equality Duty
Do you work in the public sector in England? We are asking
colleagues from organisations in England which are bound by the
Public Sector Equality Duty to provide us with some feedback to
inform the guidance and resources we provide. Please take five
minutes to complete this short survey to inform our plans.
Take the survey ( [link removed] )
Last chance to book: Ensuring your coronavirus response is
inclusive of all – how the Public Sector Equality Duty can inform
Join our free webinar on Wednesday 2 September to hear
from representatives from the Equality and Human Rights
Commission, the Care Quality Commission and Devon County
Council. This session will explore how duty-bearing organisations
in England can use the Public Sector Equality Duty to ensure that
they are practically considering and responding to the needs of
people with different protected characteristics, both as they
respond to the pandemic and in its aftermath.