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31 May 2022
News from the Equality and Human Rights Commission
Investigation launched into Pontins over its treatment of Gypsies and Travellers
Last week, we launched a formal investigation into Pontins holiday parks due to continued concerns about its treatment of Gypsies and Travellers.
We entered into a 12-month legally-binding agreement last year with Pontins owner, Britannia Jinky Jersey Limited, following allegations that the company operated a discriminatory booking policy. Alleged practices included publishing an ‘undesirable’ guest list containing common Irish surnames and refusing or cancelling bookings by people thought to be Gypsies or Travellers. Declining to provide services to guests because they are of a certain race or ethnic group is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010, which recognises Gypsies and Travellers as a distinct racial group.
We were not satisfied that the company was taking the required steps to prevent unlawful race discrimination or meet its commitments under the agreement, so terminated it in February. We have now launched a formal investigation that will consider whether Pontins has committed unlawful acts under the Equality Act 2010.
See more details on our investigation [link removed]
Improving the treatment of disabled benefit claimants
We are drawing up a legally-binding agreement with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to improve its treatment of disabled benefit claimants. This action is in response to serious concerns about failures to meet the needs of its customers with mental health impairments and learning disabilities.
After campaigners and MPs raised concerns with us about the deaths of DWP customers in vulnerable situations, we have been examining whether the DWP was making reasonable adjustments to its processes for people with mental health conditions and learning difficulties, as required under the Equality Act 2010.
The legally-binding action plan will be focused on resolving issues for DWP customers, and offers a fast, effective means of redress, and helps to avoid lengthy investigations or court action.
Read more about our action with DWP [link removed]
Concluding our legally-binding agreement
With Network Rail
In December 2020, we entered into a legally-binding Section 23 agreement with Network Rail after it failed to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people during a lift refurbishment at Manchester Victoria station.
We worked closely with Network Rail on an action plan to address the issues faced by disabled people using its services. The action plan included a number of commitments from Network Rail, including ensuring that a Diversity Impact Assessment is carried out at an early stage of every refurbishment project life-cycle.
The legally-binding agreement has now concluded. The improvements Network Rail have made as a result of it, such as ensuring additional staff are available to help passengers during refurbishment projects, will greatly benefit disabled people using its services.
Find out more about our legally-binding agreement with Network Rail [link removed]
Human Rights Act reform:
Giving evidence at the Joint Committee for Human Rights (JCHR)
This month, our Chair, Baroness Kishwer Falkner, gave evidence to the Joint Committee for Human Rights, alongside the Scottish Human Rights Commission and Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, highlighting the substantial contributions made by the Human Rights Act to people across the nations.
Baroness Falkner referenced our response to the UK Government’s Bill of Rights consultation.
Proposed Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill
Earlier this month, we gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee on the Scottish Government's Gender Recognition Reform Bill.
We are working to address the barriers faced by trans people, including to ensure fair treatment at work and improved access to healthcare.
Our Chief Strategy Officer, Melanie Field, and Director of Policy and Human Rights Monitoring, Alasdair MacDonald, represented the Commission.
Download our letter to the Scottish Government from January 2022 (Word) [link removed]
Scottish Mental Health Law Review:
Our consultation response
Last week, we submitted a response to the Phase 3 consultation of the Scottish Mental Health Law Review. This independent review aims to improve the rights and protections around mental health in Scotland, and remove barriers to care.
Our response to the consultation focuses on those equality issues most relevant to our statutory remit, and considers a number of topics including the legal framework and purpose of the law, supported decision making, accountability, and children and young people.
The Review’s final report is expected to go to Scottish Ministers by the end of September 2022.
Download our full consultation response (Word) [link removed]
Why monitoring human rights is vital:
Our Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report
Last month, we published our latest report for the United Nations (UN), looking at how human rights are being upheld in Britain.
The report contributes to the UPR, when UN countries review each other’s progress on putting human rights into practice.
We are a National Human Rights Institution and reports like these are a vital part of our role in monitoring human rights. However, when we think of monitoring human rights simply as participating in formal processes, sometimes the bigger picture can get lost. In a new blog post, Katharine Weatherhead in our Human Rights Monitoring team, looks at how monitoring helps us to promote the necessity, the vitality and the fullness, of human rights.
Read our blog post on the value of monitoring human rights [link removed]
Addressing Pay Inequalities in Wales:
Past, Present and Future
Tuesday 14 June 2022, 09:15 - 10:45
Gender Equalities at Work [link removed] will be discussing Wales' approach to tackling workplace inequalities in a webinar and roundtable next month. The event will reflect on progress since the Equal Pay Act of 1970 and look to securing equal pay and closing gender, disability and ethnicity pay gaps in the future.
Wayne Vincent, Principal in our Commission in Wales [link removed] , will be part of the event which is being co-chaired by Jane Hutt MS, Minister for Social Justice and Hannah Blythyn MS, Deputy Minister for Social Partnership.
Register for the Gender Equalities at Work event [link removed]
When Rights and Tech Collide:
Protecting human rights and equality in the age of AI
Tuesday 7 June 2022, 14:00 - 15:30 BST
Working with the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (CFNHRI) and the European Network of Equality Bodies (Equinet), we are chairing a webinar with legal experts, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and National Equality Bodies (NEBs) to explore the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on human rights and equality.
As technologies evolve, so do our responsibilities to protect everyone’s rights. Whether it be in terms of employment, healthcare, social security, access to justice, or the protection of marginalised groups, technology such as artificial intelligence can enhance or undermine existing protections.
Considering examples from the UK, The Netherlands, Germany and Canada, this webinar will look at technology-enabled discrimination cases, how regulators can respond to emergent technologies and how NHRIs and NEBs can work with civil society to build in human rights at the ground level.
Register for the webinar [link removed]
Preparations for CFNHRI Biennial Meeting
16-17 June 2022
Next month, on 16 -17 June 2022, members of the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (CFNHRI) will gather in Kigali, Rwanda for their biennial meeting. The meeting, which takes place just before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, was postponed in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Its theme will be ‘Human rights for all at the heart of recovery efforts during and after Covid-19’.
We have chaired CFNHRI since 2018 and at the biennial meeting we will formally pass the Chairship on to the Rwanda National Commission for Human Rights (RNCHR). In preparation for this, representatives from RNCHR visited the Equality and Human Rights Commission in London and Manchester at the beginning of March, and our colleagues who have been working on the CFNHRI project then visited Kigali, they are pictured here with the board of RNCHR.
For more information, visit the CFNHRI website [link removed] .