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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Employers Forum on Age

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

At a reception held in the House of Lords by the ‘Employers Forum on Age’ Meg gave the following remarks.

Thank you Lord Stevenson for that kind introduction.  I'm pleased to be here today.

I’d like to set out briefly what the Government has done to promote age equality, and to talk more widely about what we are doing to continue the growth of a society that is based on opportunity and fairness, where everyone’s talents and abilities can be harnessed.

I'm not going to dwell on the legislation outlawing unjustified age discrimination in employment and vocational training.  I know that the Employers Forum on Age, through Sam [Mercer] - a key member of our Age Advisory Group - has been keeping you up to date with developments. 

I can confirm that the regulations will come into force on 1 October this year.  We have asked ACAS to produce guidance, which will be published soon after the regulations have been approved by Parliament.  We will also be publishing separate guidance on the occupational pensions aspects of the regulations.

I now want to talk about the Government’s broader equality programme.

First, the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR). This new commission will champion equality, diversity, and human rights as vital values of our society. It will help combat the discrimination that blights too many lives.

Promoting age equality will be an important part of the CEHR’s work. As will supporting the implementation of the age employment regulations.  It will be a significant step forward to have, for the first time, a body with a statutory remit to tackle age discrimination and promote age equality. 

We expect the CEHR will work in partnership with the private, public and voluntary sectors when it opens its doors next autumn. It will provide business with accurate advice and information on all equality and discrimination issues. The commission will work to make public services responsive to diverse needs, in line with the standards of the Human Rights Act.

The second part of the Government’s programme is the Equalities Review.  This review will help our understanding of the deep-rooted causes of inequality and disadvantage; it will promote new thinking on ways to tackle them. We expect the interim findings to be published in March, with the full report published in September.

The third element is the Discrimination Law Review, which we established to take a searching look at current anti-discrimination legislation and propose ways of modernising this framework - to make it more effective.  The review is considering very carefully the issue of unfair treatment on grounds of age in the supply of goods, facilities and services.

We’ll also be looking at the particular role the public sector has to play in promoting equality, and what duties it is appropriate for the public sector to have.  A Green Paper setting out initial proposals will be published in the summer. This will open a consultation to which we hope all those interested will contribute their views.

To help us take the review forward, we’re working closely with many different groups, such as the CBI and Age Concern.  And I know that my department has had several very useful discussions with the Employers Forum on Age.

Once both reviews are concluded and published, they will feed in to the development of the Single Equality Bill.  I expect this to be introduced during this Parliament.

We want to take this programme of work forward in partnership with all those who can contribute. I’m encouraged to see so many employers here, committed to developing a workforce rich in its diversity as regards age.

I wish you a very successful afternoon.

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