Britain mulls sweeping equality measure

June 26, 2008 at 8:53 AM

LONDON, June 26 (UPI) -- The British Parliament is contemplating a sweeping civil rights bill to help minority groups, women and the elderly, sources said.

The most contentious of the bill's provisions is one that would have companies hire either a woman or a member of a minority group in the event the candidate's qualifications were even with those of a white male, the Times of London reported Thursday.

The bill would also mandate publication of pay lists aiming to show the discrepancy between pay for males and females. Gaps in pay between the genders averages 17 percent in Britain, a discrepancy that rises to 45 percent in London, the Times reported.

The bill also seeks to end some forms of ageism, barring discrimination against the elderly in health, travel, and insurance businesses, the Times said.

But, some said the debate, contemplating only pay disclosures for public sector employers, doesn't push far enough.

"Without compulsory pay audits for the private sector these proposals will represent a very real victory for the hawks in the Cabinet," Liberal Democrat spokeswoman Lynne Featherstone told the Times.

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