The government has published a green paper outlining plans for a single equality bill with the aim of simplifying and improving existing legislation.
But the proposals have come under fire from both the TUC and the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) for not including employment law.
Instead, the government is looking at private clubs and associations which target membership at one sex or group, restrict access to female members to particular times or prevent them from taking part in running the club.
The consultation is also looking at the provision of financial services for the over-65s, provision of access to the disabled and whether the equality duties for public bodies should be extended.
The paper includes consultation on plans for implementing the EU’s Gender Directive, which requires equal treatment for men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services – but its remit is wider.
That’s why DRC chief executive Bob Niven said: “The green paper fails to measure up – either to the remit it was set or the reality of continued inequality and discrimination in Britain today.
“With serial non-compliance by many businesses and employers with major planks of existing legislation there is an acute need for stronger legal enforcement when the law is not being observed. We also want more direction from the courts to create good practice.”
The DRC is calling for the green paper to be turned into a draft bill to ensure proper parliamentary scrutiny. Instead, the government plans to implement the parts that relate to the Gender Directive via statutory instruments by the deadline of December 21.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber added: “We welcome efforts to simplify and consolidate equality law. But those looking for major advances today – such as protection for those who fall foul of employers because of their caring responsibilities – will be disappointed.
“The TUC will use the consultation period to press for a more effective and wide-ranging package. We will work to stop the review going down as a missed opportunity to tackle unfair discrimination at work, not just the golf club.”
But the CBI welcomed the decision not to overhaul employment law. Its director of HR policy Susan Anderson said: “This would have created an industry for lawyers, and distracted employers from the real task of raising equality and diversity in ways that benefit them and their employees.
“Discrimination in the workplace, wherever it exists, squanders effort, ideas, competitiveness and sales.”