Government pushes ahead with Equality Act review, posting new job to ‘consider’ making changes

Kemi Badenoch wrote to the EHRC requesting guidance on defining 'sex' in the Equality Act.

The Conservative government appears to be pushing ahead with a review of the Equality Act 2010, despite a petition with more than 100,000 signatures urging it not to amend the act to change the definition of “sex” to “biological sex”.

A role “to consider whether and how legislative changes to the Equality Act 2010 could be made” was posted on the internal Civil Service Jobs website on Thursday (10 August), according to an account on X – the platform formerly known as Twitter. 

The job posting follows women and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch sending a letter in February to the Equality Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the UK’s human rights watchdog, asking for advice “clarifying the definition of sex for the effective operation of the Equality Act 2010”. 

The role asks for a G6 – a specialist in a particular area who reports to senior civil servants – to work within the Equality Hub at the request of Badenoch.

“The project is intended to be completed by the end of July 2024,” the advert states. 

PinkNews has been awaiting comment from the cabinet office for comment on the new role for more than a week. It has yet to provide a statement.

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On 4 April, following Badenoch’s February letter, the EHRC published its response where it said that while there is “no straightforward balance” in the matter, defining sex as “biological sex” would “bring great legal clarity”. 

The clarity suggested by the EHRC would be seen across eight areas, including “freedom of association for lesbians and gay men”, “single sex and separate sex services” and “sport”.

As well as this, the letter from EHRC chair Baroness Kishwer Falkner notes areas which would be “ambiguous or disadvantageous” if the definition of sex was changed. 

A government spokesperson previously confirmed to PinkNews it will “consider” the advice set out by the EHRC in the “usual” manner.

The Labour Party has said it supports the EHRC’s proposed review of the 2010 act, but trans activists feel differently and have expressed “alarm” at the impact such changes would have on their day-to-day lives. 

LGBTQ+ activists, including former EHRC employees, have also spoken out about the letter, with some telling PinkNews that they are horrified by the idea of potential changes.

In April 2023, a petition which gained traction following the EHRC’s response to Badenoch’s letter hit 100,000 signatures.

The petition reads: “Currently, the [Equality] Act protects trans people from discrimination on the basis of both sex and ‘gender reassignment’, regardless of whether they have undergone medical transition or hold a Gender Recognition Certificate. 

“It can allow trans people to access single-sex spaces such as [domestic violence] shelters, bathrooms and hospital wards.

“The proposed change would remove a legal protection for trans people and encourage discrimination.”

The government responded to the petition in January claiming it is “committed” to upholding protecting Britons against unlawful discrimination. 

An EHRC spokesperson previously told PinkNews: “Should the UK government wish to pursue work in this area, we recommend detailed policy and legal analysis be undertaken, in compliance with the Public Sector Equality Duty and with due regard to any possible disadvantages for trans men and trans women.” 

The spokesperson added that the decision ultimately sit with the UK government and its parliament. 

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