If you're curious about the history of race equality legislation in the UK, this blog post is especially for you! From the Race Relations Act of 1965 to today's Equality Act, we look at how laws have changed over time to protect and promote racial equality in Britain.
The Race Relations Act 1965
The Race Relations Act of 1965 was the first British legislation to prohibit racial discrimination. This was followed by the Race Relations Act of 1968, which focused on eradicating discrimination in housing and employment. The 1965 Bill was introduced to ensure that second-generation immigrants "who have been born here" were protected from discrimination.
It marked a significant shift for the British government, as it officially recognized the existence of racial discrimination against ethnic minority people and the need for a Race Relations Act.
The purpose of the Act was to prevent racial discrimination in certain specified places such as hotels, restaurants, cinemas, and theatres.
The Race Relations Act of 1976
Following the 1965 Race Relations Act, the Race Relations Act of 1976 was introduced, extending the definition of discrimination to include indirect discrimination. This Act also established the Race Relations Board and National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants, making it an offense to discriminate against people based on race or colour in public places.
The scope of this legislation was wide-ranging and included discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, nationality, ethnicity, and national origin in the fields of employment, training, and the provision of facilities and services.
The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) was formed under this Act to eliminate racial discrimination.
The Equality Act 2010 and Beyond
The Equality Act 2010 replaced previous legislation, such as the Race Relations Act 1976, and ensured consistency in what employers and employees need to do to ensure everyone is treated fairly.
The Equality Act 2010 was a significant milestone in the UK's history of race equality legislation. The Act expanded the scope of protection against discrimination beyond public places and brought together over 116 pieces of legislation under one act.
Our history of law to protect individual rights is longstanding, and rooted in the negative experiences that some of the most marginalised in society have faced.
We must strive towards a society where everyone is treated equally, regardless of background or identity and ensure the history of our current legislation is understood, and the past and current forms of discrimination continue to be tackled.
For more information about the Equality Act (2010) see the EHRC.