Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
Major watchdog report reveals progress and challenges in Britain’s pursuit of equality and human rights protections
A comprehensive examination of Britain’s equality and human rights landscape over the past five years has been published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
The Equality and Human Rights Monitor report assesses the status of equality and human rights across Britain, with a particular focus on the nine protected characteristics safeguarded by the Equality Act 2010.
The report is intended to be a reference document for the legal, political and social changes impacting each protected characteristic and the analysis provides an extensive overview of the progress and challenges in areas such as education, health, justice, and work.
It is produced for Parliament every five years by the EHRC, which is the regulator of equality laws in Britain and the human rights watchdog for England and Wales.
Presenting a mixed picture, the latest report reflects the unique challenges faced in recent years, including the COVID-19 pandemic, Brexit, rising inflation, and the economic fallout from the war in Ukraine.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on certain groups, across multiple areas of society. For example, the increase in home working has benefitted many parents, older and disabled people, and those with caring responsibilities. However, it did bring challenges for others, such as those older and disabled people who faced social exclusion and more young people reporting mental health conditions.
The report highlights the areas Great Britain has advanced in, including:
- Employment gaps: the employment gap between disabled people and non-disabled people has narrowed. However, the earnings gap has increased.
- Reduced material deprivation: almost all groups have experienced a drop in severe material deprivation (where people cannot access basic necessities and essential goods and services) over the last ten years. This is because the cost of living has been fairly low by historical standards. However, the current cost-of-living crisis could reverse this trend in the years to come.
- Minimum wage impact: the National Minimum Wage (NMW) has played a role in improving hourly earnings and household incomes, which is particularly beneficial to women.
- Access to redress: disabled people have gained better access to redress processes for workplace discrimination, with the proportion of disability discrimination complaints having grown substantially from 2017/18.
Despite some progress, the report also exposes areas where Great Britain requires improvement, such as:
- Digital exclusion: a quarter of adults aged 65 and over in the UK do not have access to the internet in their home and 43% of them are defined as ‘narrow’ users of the internet and potentially at risk of digital exclusion.
- Education disparities: girls continue to outperform boys in education, including in higher education. Boys are also twice as likely to be excluded from school and more likely to have special educational needs. 23.5% of pupils in England were persistently absent in Autumn 2021, meaning they missed 10% or more sessions.
- Domestic abuse: gay and lesbian people suffer twice as much domestic abuse (11.3%) compared to heterosexual people (5.1%). Disabled people also suffer more than twice as much domestic abuse (11.5%) compared to non-disabled people (4.5%), while disabled women (1.9%) are more likely to have experienced rape in the past year than non-disabled women (0.8%).
- Justice system failings: the justice system falls short in addressing the needs of marginalised groups. For example, the court modernisation programme introduced in England and Wales can negatively affect disabled people’s access to justice.
- Data collection: there has been an increase in the availability of reliable data, however despite this expansion, there is an urgent need for more high quality and representative data, especially for the protected characteristics of gender reassignment, sexual orientation and some ethnic groups.
"Our Equality and Human Rights Monitor represents the most extensive review of Britain's progress towards greater equality and respect for human rights.
“While we welcome the improvements made over the past five years, it is clear that substantial action is required in many areas.
“Our report and recommendations aim to inform discussions and decisions for years to come, promoting action and tangible progress.
“By addressing disparities that affect specific groups, we can collectively improve services and work towards a fairer society.
“As Britain’s equality and human rights watchdog, this report underscores our unwavering commitment to safeguarding equality and human rights for everyone in Britain, as we strive for a fair and inclusive society in which people have equal opportunity to achieve their potential."
Baroness Kishwer Falkner
Chairwoman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission
The Equality and Human Rights Monitor makes several recommendations to governments and other organisations to tackle the issues identified in the report, including:
- Mandatory reporting on recruitment, retention, progression and pay of disabled workers, ensuring that the data is split by type of impairment. Employers should be required to publish action plans to address any disparities identified.
- A requirement for governments, education providers and relevant inspectorates to report on, and take action to address, the underperformance of boys relative to girls in primary and secondary education.
- A requirement for governments and health providers to report on, and take action to address, the poorer physical and mental health and poorer experience of accessing healthcare experienced by trans people.
Additional key findings in the report:
- Over the past decade the poverty gap between and men and women has opened up despite a narrowing pay gap for less educated women, who are typically lower paid. This may mean factors other than low earnings from employment are affecting poverty for some women, such as income from benefits, housing costs or household structure.
- Child poverty among children aged five and over has risen in the past decade in Britain. The number of children affected by the two-child limit on Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit is growing each year.
- There is some evidence that trans and non-binary people have poorer physical and mental health and report poorer experiences when accessing healthcare than others.
- Most ethnic groups in England are experiencing improving outcomes and narrowing gaps in education and work. But Black adults have seen earnings stagnate and unemployment remains relatively high.
- Outcomes for Muslims in Britain have improved in higher education attainment, employment, reduced economic inactivity and median hourly income. However, Muslims still experience poorer outcomes than for most other religious groups. Adult and child poverty and severe material deprivation remains high among Muslims.
- Bangladeshi people have experienced a particularly sharp improvement in poverty rate and GCSE attainment. While they still experience a poverty rate of more than 40%, the worst of all ethnic minority groups, the GCSE attainment gap between Bangladeshi and White British students changed from a nine percentage point disadvantage in 2004 to a six percentage point advantage in 2019.
- Socio-economic inequalities in life expectancy in the UK continue to be wider for men than women (the difference in life expectancy between poorer and wealthier men is wider than for women). However, such inequalities are widening faster for women.
- Gay and lesbian adults have consistently had higher employment rates and higher average wages, and are more likely to be in high-paid occupations than heterosexual adults. However, wage and occupation gaps have been narrowing over time.
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