Friday, 26 October 2012

Equality & Diversity News: October 2012

In this issue:

  • Christian B&B owners discriminated against Gay couple
  • Big Fat Gypsy Weddings has caused 'real, measurable and long-term harm’
  • Young black men have experienced the sharpest rise in unemployment
  • Serb Football Fans’ Racism – call for ban
  • International Students Spurn UK due to immigration curbs
  • Survey of Lawyers tells of bullying, harassment and discrimination
  • Oxford University: Muslim prayer space opened by Vice-Chancellor
  • New Faces: It’s all change in the world of UK equality
  • Changing attitudes to equality?
  • Can an employer ask an applicant or employee whether they have a disability?

Christian B&B owners discriminated against Gay couple

The Christian owner of a B&B in Berkshire were found to have discriminated against a gay couple by refusing to allow them stay in a double-bedded room because of her belief that all sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong.

Although a county court judgment, this case has been splashed all over the headlines  recently because it is so factually similar to the high-profile case of Bull – v-v- Hall and Preddy which is currently before the Supreme Court. This judgment has also come along at a time when the European Court of Human Rights’ decision is awaited in the four conjoined cases of Ladele, Eweida, Macfarlane and Chaplin, (see last newsletter) all of which involve issues of religious freedom and two of which involve the same potential conflict between the right not to be discriminated against on grounds of sexual orientation and the right to religious freedom. Moreover, Recorder Moulder’s comprehensive and careful judgment has helpfully been made available online, so it can be considered in detail. (See:

Some novel points in this case:
There were two elements which made this case different from Bull v. Preddy.

First, Mr Morgan and Mr Black are not in a civil partnership, whereas Mr Hall and Mr Preddy, the claimants in the Bull case, are. Mrs Wilkinson said this was an important difference, because it meant the correct comparator for a discrimination claim was an unmarried opposite-sex couple, and she would also have refused to allow such a couple to have a double bed. However, Recorder Moulder considered that the decision in Bull was not dependent on the fact that Mr Hall and Mr Preddy were civil partners, and thus she was bound to follow the Court of Appeal.
He also noted that, if she were wrong about that, it would still be direct discrimination using an unmarried comparator as it appeared Mrs Wilkinson had allowed unmarried opposite-sex couples to share a bed on a few occasions because she had not found out, until it was too late to refuse, that they were unmarried.
Second, the “Swiss B&B” which Mrs Wilkinson owns has its guest bedrooms in the centre of the family home (unlike the Bulls’ B&B where the guest bedrooms were in a separate part of the house) . She argued that this meant her B&B was not a hotel or boarding house for the purposes of regulation 4(2)(b) of the Regulations. However, Recorder Moulder held that, although different to a hotel or boarding house, the Swiss B&B is clearly a commercial venture and is a “similar establishment” to a boarding house, so did fall within regulation 4(2)(b).
Alternatively, Mrs Wilkinson argued that because she treated guests as if they were part of the family, her B&B fell within regulation 6(1), which exempts from the scope of the Regulations:
“anything done by a person as a participant in arrangements under which he (for reward or not) takes into his home, and treats as if they were members of his family, children, elderly persons or persons requiring a degree of special care and attention”

Recorder Moulder did find that Mrs Wilkinson provided a personal and caring, even loving, service to her B&B guests. However, this did not fall within a straightforward reading of the regulation, which is intended to cover people (such as children) who are taken in as if they were family and/or require special care and attention. B&B guests such as Mr Morgan and Mr Black did not fit into this category.

Recorder Moulder therefore held that the Regulations did apply to the Swiss B&B and there was direct and indirect discrimination, following the decision in Bull. The final stage was to consider whether this effect of the Regulations was in breach of Mrs Wilkinson’s Article 8 (private and family life) and Article 9 rights (religious freedom) under the European Convention. After considering the case-law and the circumstances, he held that whilst Mrs Wilkinson’s Article 8 and 9 rights were interfered with, such interference was justified because Parliament had decided the approach to be taken where rights conflicted in this way and its decision should be deferred to.

Unsurprisingly, given the fact that Bull is currently before the Supreme Court, Recorder Moulder granted permission to appeal.

Big Fat Gypsy Weddings has caused 'real, measurable and long-term harm’

Channel 4's Big Fat Gypsy Weddings series has been blamed for an increase in bullying and negative stereotyping of the Gypsy and Traveller communities. Educational consultant Brian Foster said there was "no question" in his mind that the Channel 4 series and its controversial poster campaign – featuring the strapline "Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier" – had caused "real, measurable and long-term harm".

Foster, who chairs the advisory council for the education of Romanies and other Travellers, is also a trustee of the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain (ITMB). He was commissioned by law firm Howe and Co, which represented the ITMB's complaint against the Channel 4 ad campaign, to consider the impact of the show in its evidence to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Foster said in his report:
"That harm is on a number of levels, including physical and sexual assault, racist abuse and bullying, misinformation and hostile questioning, resulting in damage to the self-esteem of children and withdrawal from school…Evidence drawn from practitioners across the country presents a consistent picture that the Big Fat Gypsy Weddings programmes have significantly contributed to racist bullying and abuse of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children in schools."

Arthur Ivatts, an expert in the education of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities who worked as a senior policy adviser to the Department for Education for more than 30 years, was also commissioned by Howe and Co to provide evidence to the ASA. His report said:
"There is no doubt in my professional opinion that this advertising campaign has seriously damaged and harmed Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and caused harm (physical, mental and emotional) to very many GR&T children…Supposing the posters had said, 'Bigger, Fatter, Blacker'? Hopefully this example illustrates the point being made here in this report."

The Channel 4 ad campaign was criticised by the ASA earlier this month. The watchdog ruled that it depicted a 15-year-old child in a sexualised way, reinforced negative stereotypes and said Channel 4 had acted "irresponsibly".
The broadcaster has apologised for any offence it caused. It has said the big-rating show will not return for a third series but a number of specials are expected to air next year.

Young black men have experienced the sharpest rise in unemployment

Young black men have experienced the sharpest rise in unemployment since the coalition came to power, a Trades Union Congress (TUC) report shows. The TUC said more than one in four of black 16 to 24-year-olds are currently out of work. Young black men are more likely to be unemployed than any other ethnic group, although young Asian women have been hit by the biggest rise in unemployment over the past decade, up from 6% to 13%. The TUC's general secretary, Brendan Barber, said:
"The UK is in the midst of a youth jobs crisis. Over a million youngsters are out of work and many more are struggling to find the finances needed to further their education. Last week the prime minister singled out employment as a great success of the government. That's cold comfort to the one in four young black men struggling for work, or the one in six jobless young black women."

Serb Football Fans’ Racism – call for ban

Calls grow for ban on Serbia following ‘deplorable’ scenes of racism at a recent match between England and Serbia in Krusevac. Prime Minister David Cameron said he was "appalled" by reports of Serbian fan racism in Krusevac.

England’s Under 21 captain Jordan Henderson says players were racially abused and attacked by missile-throwing Serbian fans after qualifying for Euro 2013. Fans ran on to the pitch and scuffles broke out after England won 1-0 in Krusevac. “There was a lot of racist abuse out there from the stands and a lot going on after the game,” he said. “There were also stones, coins and seats getting thrown at usWhat happened wasn't nice and is not called for in football.”

England defender Danny Rose, sent off after the final whistle in Serbia after kicking a football into the crowd, seemed to indicate he had been racially abused. “I didn’t understand why Danny Rose was sent off at the end,” said Henderson. “I didn’t see he did anything wrong, other than get abused.”

The FA said in a statement it “condemns both the scenes of racism and the confrontation at the final whistle during which time our players and staff were under extreme provocation”. It added: “The FA has reported a number of incidents of racism to UEFA following the fixture. These were seemingly aimed at a number of England black players by the crowd. The matter is now with UEFA.”

In 2007, the Serbian Football Federation was fined £16,000 at the Under-21 European Championship in Netherlands after their supporters racially abused England's Nedum Onouha. Former England player Paul Ince has called for Serbia to be banned from tournament football and urged UEFA chief Michel Platini and FIFA President Sepp Blatter to act. Clarke Carlisle, the Professional Footballers’ Association chairman, echoed the call for a long-term ban for the Serbs after what he described as “deplorable” scenes. “Uefa need to make a standpoint here and more importantly FIFA, I feel, because it was a FIFA qualification tournament.”

Source: I CARE News

International Student Spurn UK due to immigration curbs

International students are spurning the UK's most prestigious universities as a re sult of Government immigration curbs. Some courses at universities in the Russell Group – which represents 24 top institutions, including Oxford and Cambridge – have seen a drop of up to 30 per cent in applications from Indian students. The impact of strict new visa rules has been compounded by the negative publicity that followed the revoking of London Metropolitan University's (LMU) licence to teach overseas students last month.

The drop in applications for courses starting in October also follows the murder of Indian student Anuj Bidve in Manchester last Christmas. But university leaders said the Government's immigration clampdown was the decisive factor.
Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, said: "As ministers crack down on abuse of the system, they must be careful about the messages they send to the world's best and brightest students."

Under new visa regulations that came into force in April, students face tougher questions about their destination, limits on their ability to work and harder questions on their English-language capability. The Russell Group says overseas-student numbers must be maintained because educating non-EU citizens is "a major UK export industry" that brings in £2.5bn a year in fees.

The application figures come as Craig Calhoun, the new director of the London School of Economics, spoke of his "concern" about overseas recruitment in an interview with The Independent. He revealed there has been a "modest drop" in the acceptance of places from international students because "people are worried about the possibility the Government might suddenly and without notice revoke visas".
"If you are a bright student and you have offers from the LSE and Cambridge and Harvard and you haven't got a visa for the UK, what are you going to do? Every year we have students turned down for visas for reasons we can't fathom."

He added that the LMU affair – where the university has won the right for a judicial review of the situation – had done "untold reputational damage" to the UK higher education system. His comments, echoed by other universities, are the first signs of the impact immigration controls are having on student numbers.

Survey of Lawyers tells of bullying, harassment and discrimination

One in six solicitors has been bullied in the workplace, according to research by the Law Society. Preliminary findings of the Society’s 2012 omnibus survey of the profession reveal that 17% of solicitors say they have been bullied at work. The percentage is higher for those working in government (25%) and commerce and industry (23%), compared with those working in private practice (16%).
Of around 1,600 who took part in the survey, 6% said they had experienced sexual harassment and 10% said they had been discriminated against. Of those, 168 respondents who had experienced discrimination, nearly two thirds (64%) attributed it to their sex, 20% to their age, 20% to their ethnicity, 19% to social class. Other things also cited as factors were religion, disability, pregnancy and sexual orientation.
On the issue of stress, only 5% of practising certificate holders reported having no negative stress in the work; 65% reported either moderate or severe stress and 4% said they experienced extreme stress. However, only 2% said they taken time off work due to stress over the past 12 months.
The initial findings of the survey were presented to the Law Society’s membership board, which is looking to develop a strategy to promote the wellbeing of its membership.
A paper to the board written by the Society’s corporate responsibility specialist Kate Walmsley said that the reports of bullying, harassment and discrimination are ‘clearly too high’. She said the reported instances were not significantly higher than in other sectors, but that a strategy to address and support members facing such issues is important to reduce the financial and reputational cost to the profession and the Law Society.

Oxford University: Muslim prayer space opened by Vice-Chancellor

Muslim students and staff at Oxford University now have their own dedicated prayer space within the University. The new Prayer Room was opened on 9 October by the University’s Vice-Chancellor. The space will be available to students and staff of the University for prayer, as well as for events and discussion groups.

Aayan Hussein, president of the Oxford University Islamic Society, said:
The Oxford University Islamic Society is delighted by the decision of the University to allocate a prayer space to cater for the needs of Muslim students. For a long time there has been no accessible, central location in Oxford for students and staff at the University to perform their daily prayers and for the Society to provide educational events for its members. University officials were extremely receptive, recognised this need and enabled the idea to become a reality. The prayer space will undoubtedly transform the lives of Muslim students studying at Oxford and nurture an environment in which students may fulfil their religious obligations and excel in their studies.’

New Faces: It’s all change in the world of UK equality

The Government Equalities Office has moved from the Home Office to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport where it now comes under DCMS’ new Secretary of State, Maria Miller, who has two Parliamentary Under Secretaries reporting to her: Helen Grant (responsible for equal civil marriage, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, equality legislation (including litigation and cases), violence against women and girls) and Jo Swinson (responsible for women and growth, women on boards, LGB&T strategy, Public Sector Equality Duty and body confidence). Lynne Featherstone, the previous Equalities Minister has moved to the Department for International Development.

Meanwhile over at the Equality and Human Rights Commission Baroness Onora O'Neill, has been selected as the Government’s preferred candidate for appointment to the role of Chair. Baroness O’Neill is a cross-bench peer in the House of Lords.  She was formerly Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge and holds the title of Honorary Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, University of Cambridge. She has written extensively on equality and freedom. Baroness O’Neill is a former chair of the Nuffield Foundation and was President of the British Academy from 2005-2009. Maria Miller has written to the Joint Committee on Human Rights who will hold a pre-appointment scrutiny hearing with Baroness O’Neill

Changing attitudes to equality?

The Government Equalities Office recently published a study on attitudes to equality in the UK. According to the GEO, this shows that there is a broad consensus on equality values, but not attitudes - data suggests that there has never been consensus of attitudes, with complexity and diversity at the individual level still remaining today. However they are changing in the longer term and in some areas quicker than others

Key findings were:

·         UK society values equality as a concept

A significant majority prioritise an equal and just society with strong  values of equality as a goal, and this proportion is slowly increasing but remains slightly lower than EU averages (See slide 1 in the presentation below). There is a complex dis-connect between this and the attitudes on equality people held.

·         People are likely to feel there is more prejudice than there actually is

Perceived prejudice is much higher than prejudicial attitudes even considering that people are likely to hide prejudice. This suggests that there appears to be much more negative equality attitudes in UK society than is actually the case.

·         Different people hold different levels of prejudice to various groups (Inter-group prejudice)

Prejudice is not permanent and can be changed- Differences in prejudices are founded on beliefs, attitudes and feelings and so are open to influence, reconsideration and therefore are changeable.

Why people feel discriminated against is changing - What people feel is the reason they are discriminated against appears to be changing over a short period of time. Colour/race and religion are now dominant reasons cited significantly more frequently than any other.

Not all groups have the same proportions of prejudiced individuals. For example, Black people are more likely to be prejudiced against gay men and lesbians compared to other groups. Whilst attitudes in general are improving there is still differences between individuals and groups where, for some, progress is slower than others. These groups are not always intuitive.

·         We often do not say what we really feel (self censorship)

Prejudicial attitudes are mostly hidden and therefore may not be obvious (people keep it to themselves or do not admit to it publicly). Most attitudes are recorded in a way that enables this prejudice to be hidden

·         It is unclear whether government is driving, or responding to change in attitudes

The evidence is unable to indicate specific government effect on attitude change, but positive attitude change is happening within the context of new equality laws and rights, as well as increased representation and significant events and media stories.

Insight provided by these findings is of significance for the Government Equalities Office under its strategic objective ‘changing culture and removing barriers’.

The full GEO Report can be found at:

Can an employer ask an applicant or employee whether they have a disability?

The general rule is that under section 60(1) of the Equality Act 2010 an employer cannot ask a candidate or applicant questions about their health, including a disability or long-term condition, before an offer of employment has been made.

Notwithstanding the above general rule an employer merely asking questions about the candidate, applicants or employee’s health does not in itself contravene section 60 of the Equality Act 2010 however, the employer’s conduct in reliance on information given in response can lead to a breach of section 60 unless an employer can show the purpose for asking the question in relation to health is to:
·         Establish whether a candidate, applicant or employee will be able to comply with a requirement to participate in a selection process.
·         Establish whether a duty to make reasonable adjustments is or will be imposed on the employer in relation to the candidate, applicant or employee to participate in a selection process.
·         Establish whether a candidate, applicant or employee will be able to carry out a function that is intrinsic to the work concerned.
·         Monitor the diversity of candidates, applicants or employees that have applied to the employer for work.
·         Establish if a candidate, applicant or employee has the disability where there is an occupational requirement to have that disability.

It would be good practice to separate out the person who receives the answers to most of these questions from those involved directly in the recruitment process to try and ensure that the answers do not “contaminate” the recruitment process itself.

The above is not an exhaustive list of the exceptions under section 60 of the Equality Act 2010 therefore employers should always obtain employment law advice on any specific issues in relation to asking questions about a candidate, applicant or employee’s health.


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