Tory MP Mike Freer: New Look’s gay discount issue shows we still need to be vigilant about equality

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Conservative MP Mike Freer has welcomed the decision by retailer New Look to change its discount policy to include the partners of gay staff, but says that it highlights that discrimination still needs to be challenged.

New Look had confirmed that its staff discount was “under review”, after a PinkNews investigation revealed that its policy which allowed a 50% discount to employees, and the same discount to one other person, specifically of the opposite sex, could be in breach of the Equality Act 2010.

Despite that New Look specifically stated that the discount was “absolutely not designed to be a couples benefit”, a leading law firm advised PinkNews that the policy may have been in breach of the Act by “indirectly discriminating” against people in same-sex couples.

Just one business day later, New Look announced that the policy would be changed to include the staff member, and one other person. The line specifying that the person had to be someone “of the opposite-sex”, was removed.

Mr Freer told PinkNews: “We should welcome the decision of New Look. Whatever the rationale behind their original policy we should always give credit to organisations that act swiftly to right a wrong. However it does underline that we need to remain vigilant to ensure discrimination doesn’t remain unchallenged.

“I am grateful that this was brought to my attention by the PinkNews report.”

A New Look spokesperson today told PinkNews: “In light of recent feedback from some of our New Look employees and having reviewed this internally, we have revised our current staff discount policy. Under the new guidelines, our employees will be entitled to a 50% discount for themselves and one other person of their choice.”

The change came following comments criticising the policy from ,Mr Freer, as well as Tory Vice Chair Michael Fabricant, Lib Dem peer Baroness Barker, leading gay rights charity Stonewall and Labour Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities Gloria De Piero.

Mark Bramwell, a Solicitor at MyLawyer, a firm providing legal services for customers of Barclays, Natwest and RBS, The AA and Admiral, had advised PinkNews that in his opinion the policy had been in breach of the Equality Act through “indirect discrimination”.

A former staff member at New Look told PinkNews that he was in the past denied the option to use his staff discount for his boyfriend.

New Look, which had a turnover of £1.25 billion in the last year, is one of the largest privately owned business in the UK.