UK: Legislation – consultations on caste discrimination, electronic balloting and reforming the tribunal system
- On 28 March the Government Equality Office published its long-awaited consultation on caste discrimination, announced back in September 2016. The consultation will run until 18 July 2017 and seeks views on whether preventing caste discrimination is best done by legislation expressly specifying caste as an aspect of race, or by relying on case law (given an EAT ruling that caste is already protected as it falls within the existing concept of "ethnic origin" to the extent that it relates to descent). The Government is concerned that the method chosen avoids "unhelpful and socially divisive consequences such as promoting, creating or entrenching ideas of caste or heightening caste consciousness where they do not previously exist". The Government asks whether there are aspects of caste which are not related to descent and which therefore would not be protected by case law. It is also concerned that, if aspects of the public sector equality duty and positive action provisions apply to caste (either because case-law is relied on, or because they are not expressly disapplied on legislating for caste), this might encourage employers to ask people about their caste, which the Government does not support on the basis it is potentially intrusive and socially divisive.
- BEIS has published a call for evidence to support the independent review of electronic balloting for industrial action due to report by the end of 2017. The consultation closes on 10 May 2017.
- The Government has published its response to the BEIS/MoJ joint consultation on reforming the employment tribunal system, available here. The Government confirmed that it intends to go ahead with its programme to digitise the whole claims process, delegate routine tasks from judges to caseworkers, give the responsibility for panel composition to the Senior President of Tribunals, and the responsibility for tribunal rules of procedure to the Tribunal Procedure Committee. Measures to amend the Employment Tribunals Act 1996 will be brought forward "as soon as Parliamentary time allows" and there will be consultation on further secondary legislation.