Helping make Britain fairer: 10 years of the Commission, 2007 to 2017

Timeline of our achievements

Since the Commission was founded on 1 October 2007, we’ve improved the lives of millions of people in Britain through our groundbreaking work. Use our interactive timeline below to find out more about our major achievements.

2008

New rights for carers

Our legal assistance in Coleman v Attridge Law created new rights for Britain’s six million carers.


Background

Sharon Coleman's son Oliver was born with a rare condition affecting his breathing and also with a hearing impairment. Ms Coleman brought a case claiming she was forced to resign from her job as a legal secretary after being harassed by her employers and refused flexible working arrangements which other employees without disabled children were granted. She claimed she was targeted because she has a child with a disability.


Result

The case was successful and means that Britain’s six million carers and any employees discriminated against at work because of their association with a disabled person can claim protection under the Equality Act 2010.

New rights for carers
2009

Credits for grandparents

Working with Grandparents Plus and others, we pushed through a new scheme – ‘Grandparents’ Credits’ – in the 2009 Budget.


Background

In 2009 we helped fund an interim study by national charity Grandparents Plus into the changing landscape of grandparental contribution to childcare in the UK. The report found that, while grandparents are playing an increasingly significant role in providing care for their grandchildren, it is often to the detriment of their financial well-being – with many working-age grandparents having to reduce or give up paid employment. Government policy was also limited in recognising and rewarding grandparents for their contribution.


Result

Alistair Darling announced that: “grandparents and other adult family members who care for their grandchildren or other members of their family aged 12 or younger for 20 hours or more a week will be able to gain National Insurance credits toward the basic state pension from April 2011”.

Credits for grandparents
2010

Religious freedom at work

Our provision of expert legal advice in Eweida v British Airways clarified how far the right to religious freedom is protected in UK law.


Background

Ms Eweida was employed as a British Airways check-in clerk and decided to start wearing a cross on a chain around her neck. This was in contravention of BA’s uniform policy and Ms Eweida was suspended from work when she refused to stop wearing the chain at work for religious reasons. However, BA later changed its policy to allow the display of religious symbols and staff were allowed to wear items such as the cross and the Star of David. Ms Eweida returned to work but BA refused to compensate her for lost earnings during the period of suspension.


Result

The case was successful as the European Court of Human Rights determined that Ms Eweida’s human rights had been breached. This helped to clarify how much the right to religious freedom is protected in UK law.

Religious freedom at work
2011

Closing a legal loophole in home care

Our landmark inquiry into the human rights of older and disabled people who require or receive home-based care and support led to increased protection for more than 500,000 people.


Background

Our inquiry, ‘Close to home’, uncovered areas of real concern in the treatment of some older people in home care. It revealed serious breaches of human rights including physical abuse, not getting support to eat and drink, and being left unwashed for days. In light of our findings we published a set of recommendations to give older people better legal protection, enforce local authorities to implement effective measures to monitor care services, and provide better guidance for older people so that they have clear information when making choices about care provision.


Result

In response to our recommendations, a number of local authorities took action to review their commissioning policies and practices, with some implementing a human rights-based approach to the way in which they assess, commission and monitor care services. The Care Quality Commission also adopted a new strategic direction to facilitate better inspection for home care services and encourage feedback directly from service users.

Closing a legal loophole in home care
2011

Human trafficking: a new law

Our groundbreaking inquiry into the nature and extent of human trafficking in Scotland resulted in a new legal protection for victims.


Background

This inquiry focused on human trafficking for the purposes of forced labour, domestic servitude, criminal exploitation and commercial sexual exploitation. We published our findings alongside 10 recommendations to improve responses to human trafficking, put victims needs at the centre of the issue and make Scotland a more hostile environment for traffickers.


Result

As a result of the inquiry, the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act passed into law in 2015. This gives legal protection to victims of trafficking and allows traffickers to be prosecuted.

Human trafficking: a new law
2012

Inquiry into harassment of disabled people

Our inquiry was followed by an important amendment to the law, which enables tougher sentencing for perpetrators of disability and transgender hate crime.


Background

This inquiry investigated the causes of disability-related harassment and what public authorities were doing to prevent and eliminate it. In examining 10 cases in which disabled people have died or been seriously injured, we found that harassment is a commonplace experience for disabled people and a culture of disbelief and institutional failures are preventing it from being tackled effectively. Our recommendations identified seven key measures that should be implemented by the Government and public authorities in preventing and dealing with disability-related harassment.


Result

Our findings were welcomed by Government and a cross-Government response included a commitment to taking forward our recommendations. Since then, governments have amended the Criminal Justice Act 2003 so that murder motivated by hatred or hostility towards disabled or transgender victims has a sentencing starting point of 30 years.

Inquiry into harassment of disabled people
2013

Tackling sexual orientation discrimination

We provided legal support in the successful Preddy and Hall v Bull and Bull case.


Background

Hazelmary and Peter Bull refused to let civil partners Steven Preddy and Martyn Hall stay in a double room at their Cornish bed and breakfast for religious reasons. The County Court judged this to be discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. We stepped in to support Mr Preddy and Mr Hall when the Bulls appealed to the Supreme Court.


Result

The Court ruled that the Bulls’ religious beliefs did not entitle them to discriminate against civil partners, and that the right of citizens to practise their religion can be limited where necessary to protect the rights of others. This was an important case in confirming the protection against sexual orientation discrimination in the provision of services.

Tackling sexual orientation discrimination
2015

Is Britain fairer?

We carried out the biggest ever review of any national human rights organisation worldwide into equality and human rights.


Background

In 2015, we published ‘Is Britain Fairer?', our state of the nation report into equality and human rights. Gathering evidence across key areas such as education, standard of living and health, we reported on what progress had been made in the last five years in reducing inequality and improving human rights for people in Britain, what challenges still exist and what needs to be done to make Britain a fairer society.


Result

The findings from ‘Is Britain Fairer?’ helped to shape the agendas of Government and public bodies, including the Women and Equalities Select Committee, the Welsh Government and NHS England, enabling them to improve human rights protection and equality legislation.

Is Britain fairer?
2015

Helping employers support their employees

In Wales, we worked with partners to produce guidance on developing workplace policies on domestic abuse and mental health.


Background

Following ‘Is Britain Fairer?’, we produced a summary of evidence for Wales looking at specific challenges to equality and human rights that were pertinent to this region. One of the key priorities identified in the report was eliminating domestic abuse and violence against women. To help achieve this, we produced guidance that encouraged employers to develop policies in order to effectively address violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.


Result

The Royal College of Nursing used this, supporting its 420,000 members across sectors in the UK, and it led to all local authorities in Wales introducing workplace policies on domestic abuse.

hello
2015

Benefits for unpaid carers

We provided expert legal advice in Hurley v the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, which will potentially mean that thousands of unpaid carers looking after disabled people will no longer see their living conditions deteriorate as a result of their benefits being capped.


Background

This case was about whether the UK Government’s decision to include the Carer's Allowance in the calculations deciding the amount of benefits a person can receive is discriminatory against 1) the carers and 2) the disabled people needing this care. It involved two claimants who care for disabled family members full-time but don’t live with them. Carers in these circumstances are entitled to the Carer's Allowance and it is included in the calculation of the benefits cap. As a result, the Housing Benefit for the claimants was reduced, meaning they faced the prospect of having to move from their home in London to somewhere where rental costs are lower. This would also mean that they would no longer be able to provide full-time care. The effect of the decision not to exempt the Carer's Allowance, as a whole, has an impact on carers and on the disabled people being cared for.


Result

The High Court ruled that the benefit cap unlawfully discriminated against disabled people and therefore their carers by failing to exempt them from the benefits cap. The Court upheld our submission that carers’ Article 14 rights under the European Convention on Human Rights had been contravened by not considering the impact on disabled people.

Benefits for unpaid carers
2016

Race inequality report

We published a landmark report into race inequality called ‘Healing a divided Britain’. Within a week, the Prime Minister responded by making tackling race inequality one of her new priorities and announced an audit into racial and socioeconomic disparities.


Background

‘Healing a divided Britain’ presented an in-depth analysis of race inequality in Britain, looking across every area of people’s lives. We identified five distinct areas – employment, education, crime, living standards, and health care – where ethnic minorities, in particular, experience the greatest disadvantage. The findings prompted a series of recommendations that called on Governments to develop a comprehensive and coordinated approach to improve race equality in Britain.


Result

Soon after the publication of our report, the Government announced a Race Disparity Audit to explore how ethnicity affects the way people are treated across public services, including health, education, employment and the criminal justice system. Published in October 2017, the audit echoed our report, revealing stark disparities between ethnic minorities in all areas of life affected by public organisations.

hello
2016

Working Forward

Our research into pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace helped reveal the scale of the issue and inform three national Government action plans. We later launched Working Forward, our campaign with business to make British workplaces the best they can be for pregnant women and new mothers. Over 150 organisations have now signed our pledge, covering 1.3 million employees.


Background

We launched Working Forward in response to the findings from our pregnancy and maternity discrimination research, which found that, among those surveyed, a high proportion of new and expectant mothers experienced negative or discriminatory experiences during pregnancy, maternity leave or return to work. Working Forward seeks to address these problems and help employers create the supportive workplaces that they and their people want.


Result

So far over 150 businesses have signed our pledge, working across four action areas – leadership, employee confidence, supporting line managers and flexible working – to make a real difference to the experiences of pregnant women and new mothers. Working Forward members such as John Lewis, Deloitte and Ford, are some examples of the businesses that are taking action to make their workplace the best they can be.

Working Forward
2016

Boardroom diversity inquiry

We published the most detailed examination carried out into Board-level recruitment and appointment practices in FTSE 350 companies.


Background

The aim of this inquiry was to look at how FTSE 350 companies and their agents make decisions about the appointment of board directors, and examine whether those recruitment practices are transparent, fair and result in selection based on merit. Our findings showed that many companies continue to fail to improve gender diversity in senior management and board-level roles. We also presented recommendations seeking to improve diversity target setting, board evaluation, and the candidate search and selection process.


Result

As a result of our inquiry into the FTSE 350, the Financial Reporting Council will review the Corporate Governance Code to ensure that requirements to disclose the diversity of board members are effective in driving progress.

Boardroom diversity inquiry
2017

Defeating disability discrimination

We provided legal and financial support in the Doug Paulley v FirstGroup disability discrimination case, which means bus drivers must do more to accommodate wheelchair users.


Background

In February 2012 wheelchair user Doug Paulley tried to board a FirstGroup bus from Wetherby to Leeds. The driver asked him to wait, as the wheelchair space was currently taken by a mother with her sleeping child in a pushchair. When the driver asked the woman to leave the space she refused, meaning Mr Paulley was unable to board the bus and missed a vital rail connection.


Result

Mr Paulley successfully sued FirstGroup at Leeds County Court for unlawful discrimination against him due to his disability. However, FirstGroup appealed and the case was finally heard by the Supreme Court. In January 2017, it made a landmark ruling that bus companies must end ‘first come, first served’ policies and do more to cater for wheelchair users. The court also suggested that the law should be reconsidered in order to provide clarity for bus companies and their customers.

hello
2017

Challenging Employment Tribunal fees

We provided expert legal evidence in the case of UNISON v The Lord Chancellor, which found that Employment Tribunal fees were unlawful.


Background

Following the introduction of Employment Tribunal fees in July 2013, discrimination cases on the grounds of sex, disability and race all fell by around 50% in 2016-17. Pregnancy and maternity discrimination claims also fell by 45%. This was a strong indication that the fees were preventing access to justice.


Result

The case was successful, with the Supreme Court ruling that Employment Tribunal fees were unlawful and discriminatory. The Ministry of Justice committed to take “immediate steps to stop charging fees in employment tribunals and put in place arrangements to refund those who have paid”.

Challenging Employment Tribunal fees