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EHRC - Strategic plan

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has released its strategic plan for the next 3 years.

EHRC legal duties

The EHRC are Britain’s national equality body and a United Nations accredited ‘A status’ National Human Rights Institution. Their role, duties and powers are defined in the Equality Act 2006. They advise governments on the effectiveness of equality and human rights laws. They also measure and report on progress towards equality and human rights outcomes over time. They enforce the Equality Act 2010, which makes it unlawful to discriminate against or harass individuals based on the following protected characteristics:

  • age

  • disability

  • gender reassignment

  • marriage and civil partnership

  • pregnancy and maternity

  • race

  • religion or belief

  • sex

  • sexual orientation.

As a National Human Rights Institution, they promote awareness, understanding and protection of human rights, encouraging public bodies to follow the Human Rights Act. They protect those most at risk of human rights abuses and monitor human rights, reporting their findings to the UK Government and the United Nations.

Some points from the plan about older people.

The challenges to fairness facing post-COVID Britain

The pandemic has also focused attention on the need to balance competing and conflicting rights. These choices have been especially difficult for older and disabled people, including those living in care homes. Restrictions and shielding have protected their right to life, but this has affected their ability to see loved ones and their right to a family life. Many of these groups, and their families, have suffered particularly badly during the pandemic.

There are wider changes taking place that the EHRC also focus on. The use of digital technologies, including artificial intelligence, in all areas of life will provide significant benefits. But, if they are designed or implemented poorly, they could embed discriminatory decision-making and exclude some groups from information or services, particularly older and disabled people and those from ethnic minorities.

Equality in a changing workplace

EHRC will ensure that:

  • Employers are held to account for discrimination, harassment and victimisation so that all workers are treated fairly.

  • Employers understand their legal duties and how to improve equality of opportunity. This includes addressing gaps in employment rates and pay for different groups.

  • The legal and policy framework protects and strengthens the rights of employees and prospective employees most harmed by discrimination.

  • As part of plans to rebuild national and local economies from the pandemic, measures are put in place to improve equality of opportunity for disadvantaged groups. Action is taken to improve access to work including through providing reasonable adjustments for disabled people.

EHRC will achieve this by:

  • Supporting employers so their practices follow the law, are not discriminatory and provide equal opportunities.

  • Taking enforcement action to hold employers to account for breaking the law.

  • Promoting flexible working to support equal opportunities and more inclusive workplaces.

  • Providing expert advice and guidance on how the Equality Act applies, so people can access proper protection in a changing workplace, including people in insecure work.

  • Enforcing gender pay gap regulations, exposing unfair ethnicity and disability pay gaps, and providing expert advice on how to deal with the factors that cause them.

  • Promoting equal opportunities in the workplace. Working with employers and governments to provide adequate routes into work for disabled people, older people and unskilled younger people, including through apprenticeships.

  • Advising national, regional and local government on embedding equality considerations into plans to rebuild economies after the pandemic.

Upholding rights and equality in health and social care

Health and social care systems are struggling to meet demands, which the pandemic has added to significantly. These challenges can result in unequal access to treatment and breaches of people’s human rights and ability to live independently.

EHRC will ensure that:

  • Discriminatory barriers that stop people from accessing health and social care services are understood and addressed.

  • Legal and policy frameworks across Britain provide safeguards, promote equal access to treatment, and protect the human rights of people at risk of or in mental health detention.

  • Policy and practice reduces the inappropriate use of detention, restraint and isolation in mental health services, secure care and social care.

  • Social care systems and services are free from discrimination and protect the rights of social care users and the people providing their care.

  • The right to independent living is recognised in policies that support older and disabled people and is respected in practice.

EHRC will achieve this by:

  • Working with governments, service providers and regulators to identify ways to reduce barriers to accessing health and social care services.

  • Using our legal powers to challenge breaches of people’s rights in mental health detention, secure care and social care.

  • Working with service providers and regulators to improve policy and practice to reduce the inappropriate use of detention, restraint and isolation.

  • Providing expert advice on how proposals to reform health and social care services affect equality and human rights.

  • Promoting and protecting older and disabled people’s right to live independently, by giving expert advice and guidance and supporting providers to improve practice.

Addressing the equality and human rights impact of digital services and artificial intelligence

An increasing focus on digital services can risk discriminating against and excluding people who cannot access them. Systems based on machine learning and algorithms are changing how organisations recruit staff, make decisions and provide services. These technologies have the potential to bring benefits, but also pose risks to equality and human rights.

EHRC will ensure that:

  • Improvements in policy and practice reduce barriers to accessing digital services for people with protected characteristics.

  • People understand how the Equality Act 2010 applies to the design and use of automated decision-making, and how discrimination that might arise through algorithmic biases can be identified and challenged.

  • There is improved understanding of how the Human Rights Act applies to the use of new technology in terms of privacy, surveillance and the use of data.

  • The law is updated in line with the development of new technologies to protect people from discrimination and breaches of their rights.

EHRC will achieve this by:

  • Supporting service providers to understand how digital exclusion affects people, and how to use technology to make services more inclusive.

  • Working with expert organisations and regulators to identify and challenge discrimination in relation to artificial intelligence and emerging technology, and to embed fairness and equal treatment in the design and operation of systems and services.

  • Providing guidance on how the Equality Act applies to the use of new technologies in automated decision-making. Working with employers to make sure that using artificial intelligence in recruitment does not embed biased decision-making in practice.

  • Making rights and freedoms in the digital age clearer, including how the Human Rights Act applies to privacy, surveillance and the use of data.

  • Identifying gaps in the law created by the development and use of new technologies. Advising on how the law can be updated to provide protection from discrimination and breaches of rights.

You can download the full report

Download PDF • 3.21MB


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