I was recently at the TUC black workers conference and the first question after I spoke was about the merger of the previous bodies which created the EHRC and if it had been a good idea. I said then and can only repeat that I believe it was. Inequality and unfairness breaches of the human rights we all share can affect everyone, and we need to speak and act together to tackle those injustices.
In the Commission, we hope that the plan of work we have set out reflects a shared sense of where we should focus our efforts. And how work in different areas can strengthen the effort to support all of those whose rights to fair and equal treatment are threatened. So when we start an inquiry into avoidable deaths in detention of those with mental health conditions we believe we are tackling a problem which affects different ages, ethnicity and some of the most vulnerable in our society.
The work our Scotland team have done in apprenticeships has shown how much more needs to be done for people with different protected characteristics to deliver a fair system for access to these opportunities.
It seems incredible that in 2014 we may still be seeing cases of direct discrimination against people because of their race in the lettings industry. We are working with others to understand and tackle that totally unacceptable practice just as we have taken cases about how services to the public are provided fairly to the LGBT community.
We are undertaking a major inquiry into the way workers in the cleaning sector are treated and how employers and the firms that hire cleaning companies makes sure their rights are respected. We want recruitment to be fair and open to everyone, and then employment to recognise the rules on pay, maternity, and all the aspects of fair treatment we expect from good employers.
In our crucial work in monitoring the UK’s compliance with UN Treaties, we will be testing how the commitments to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of gender, race and disability are being implemented in practice and setting out how the state needs to do better in the future.
Part of our job will always be to recognise the specific issues which still impact unfairly on people because of race, like our work on stop and search which we think has contributed to the possibility of real Improvement in the coming year. We will still be supporting individual cases in the courts where discrimination on the grounds of race need to be tackled head on. We will not, and do not, lose focus on the legacy we are responsible for in furthering race relations and racial equality.
But we will also be continuing to work on the integrated projects and programmes which we believe have the potential to improve lives for people from many backgrounds. Women on boards is essential work, but it is a start, not a finish.
Mark Hammond is Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission www.equalityhumanrights.com
Photo Credit: Naomi Atkinson