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Proposals for a new non-discrimination directive

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Last updated 4th December 2012.

The European Framework Directive is largely limited to the workplace. This page deals with proposals for a new European directive which would apply beyond that, e.g. to provison of services. There has been a UK consultation on it. Progress on the directive currently seems to be stalled: see below (Lack of) Progress. There are separate plans for a European Accessibility Act.

The proposal

On 2nd July 2008 the European Commission adopted a proposal for a new directive on discrimination beyond the workplace. It includes discrimination based on disability and other listed grounds. It applies to provision of goods, services and facilities, as well as various other areas.

It is only a proposal, and would need consent of all member states to be adopted as EU law.

The proposal can be read on the EUR-Lex website. Some subsequent drafting suggestions by the EU Presidency are available in Annex A of the UK Government Summary of Responses (pdf, link to archived Govt Equalities Office website) to its consultation on the proposed Directive. This UK summary of responses was issued in January 2010.

(Lack of) Progress

November 2012

There is an EU update on the directive proposal (pdf, link to europa.eu). This indicates that progress was made in some areas during the Cyprus Presidency in the second half of 2012, but extensive further work is still needed.

Previous updates

As at January 2012 (and for some time before) progress on the proposed directive seems to have been negligible:

The German government in particular has been opposing the directive, which would need consent of all member states to become law.

The proposal was discussed on 2nd October 2008 at a meeting of Employment and Social Policy ministers. Their discussions are summarised in a Press Release 2/10/08 – Council of the European Union (link to pdf on EU website). The meeting asked that preparatory bodies “continue to work actively on this file with a view improving the text both from a legal viewpoint and in terms of clarifying the provisions.”

Subsequently on 2 April 2009, the European Parliament backed the proposed directive when it adopted a consultation report by Kathalijne Buitenweg (Greens/EFA, NL) by 360 votes in favour and 227 against. See April, 2nd 2009 – European Parliament: Adoption of the consultation report by Kathalijne Buitenweg (Greens/EFA, NL) on the “anti-discrimination” directive (link to aedh.eu).

Drafting suggestions by the EU Presidency were made public in January 2010 – see link to ‘Summary of Responses’ under previous heading.

UK aspects

UK Government consultation

The UK published a consultation document on the proposed directive in May 2009, and issued its Summary of Responses (pdf, link to archived Govt Equalities Office website) to the consultation in January 2010. (See also link to original consultation, on archived Govt Equalities Office website).

The then UK Labour Government seemed to support the directive in principle, but would be looking to have various changes made, as would doubtless numerous other member states.

Work and Pensions Committee

In a report dated April 2009 the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee considered the proposed EU directive.

  • It strongly welcomed the draft directive, but believed the directive must clarify the definition of disability and recommended that the social model should be used (compare its recommendation on UK definition of disability).
  • Multiple discrimination should be covered.
  • The Government should also listen to concerns from the business community – without diminishing any of the existing obligations on business.

Source: paras 267-282 Work and Pensions Committee report The Equality Bill: how disability equality fits within a single Equality Act (link to parliament.uk).

Effect of directive in UK

In Great Britain the Equality Act 2010 (and previously the DDA) already includes services, going well beyond the Framework Employment Directive. Even so, the proposed directive may require British law to be extended in some respects:

  • Some changes in the proposed directive have already been included in the Equality Act 2010 and so are now in effect in the UK. These include ‘indirect discrimination’ which now applies to disability, coverage of harassment as regards provision of services, and the shift of burden of proof in cases on provision of services.
  • An aspect of the proposed directive which may not be reflected in current British law is that under Article 4 of the proposed directive there seems to be both an anticipatory duty to take measures to make services etc accessible, and also a duty to make reasonable accommodation if needed in a particular case. Under the current UK law on services for example, there is already an anticipatory duty to make reasonable adjustments. However, there is only an individual reasonable adjustment claim if there is a breach of the general (anticipatory) duty – there may perhaps need to be technical changes here.

Campaign for new directive

Disability groups have been campaigning for some years for the introduction of more comprehensive disability discrimination legislation at an EU level. Legislation in many other European countries is not as comprehensive as that in the UK (see above), and protection in the UK may be more limited for some of the other grounds, such as age, covered by the proposed directive.

The European Disability Forum (EDF, www.edf-feph.org) signed up well over 1 million people to its petition to introduce EU-wide disability legislation. Its www.1million4disability.eu website now includes a letter to signatories about the new proposal by the European Commission, and EDF’s detailed position paper (September 2008). The EDF argues that the proposal needs improvement.

As at May 2010, Amnesty International had started a petition to urge Germany to cease its opposition to the directive.