The move towards a new unified equality commission moved a step forward yesterday with the commencement of a number of provisions of the Equality Act 2006. The Act allows for the official establishment and constitution of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR), including the appointment of the Chair, expected in late summer, followed by the appointment of the other Commissioners, expected by November 2006. The commencement of these provisions triggers the start of the 'transition period'.
During this period the CEHR will be working towards a seamless transfer of functions from the existing Commissions: the Disability Rights Commission, and the Equal Opportunities Commission in 2007, and then by 2009 the Commission for Racial Equality. The Commission for Racial Equality may fold in to the new body later in recognition of special issues it faces in transition. All three existing commissions will be incorporated into the CEHR by 31st March 2009.
The provisions also allow for new regulations to be made prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods, facilities and services. It is anticipated that these regulations will be laid before Parliament in October 2006 so that they can come into force at the same time as the provisions in the Act prohibiting discrimination on grounds of religion or belief.
Orders will also be made to ensure better performance of the public sector duty to promote gender equality, which will come into force in April 2007.
From October 2007 when the CEHR becomes operational, it will be responsible for providing institutional support against discrimination on the grounds of age, sex, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief, and human rights. The CEHR will also be working closely with the CRE to ensure that race remains a priority area following the establishment of the CEHR and prior to when the Commission for Racial Equality joining.