11 April 2017

Launching a public consultation on the subject, the Government Equalities Office (GEO) has suggested that a legal ban on caste discrimination could be approached in one of two ways.

The Equality Act 2010 could be amended to include a duty to specify discrimination on the ground of caste as illegal, or employment tribunals could be encouraged to see caste as, at least in certain circumstances, an aspect of ethnic origin and thus already covered by the Act.

A survey and consultation document (both available at http://bit.ly/2o5gqsx) seek views, particularly from employers and public authorities, as to which would be the better approach.

Whichever is chosen, those involved would have to consider caste discrimination in the same way they consider other aspects of race discrimination when dealing with employees, customers or service users.

Section 9 of the 2010 Act, amended by Parliament in 2013, requires the Government to introduce secondary legislation to make caste an aspect of race, and caste discrimination a form of race discrimination, subject to consultation.

In putting forward the options, the GEO has emphasised that, "in discussing caste, we want to be careful not to create or entrench any notion of caste consciousness or caste-based practices into British society, which may prove counterproductive or divisive".

Nor, it goes on, should caste issues be associated with any one particular community or religion.

The GEO accepts that establishing a workable definition of caste is highly challenging but would welcome a range of views on the matter. The deadline for submitting comments is 18 July 2017.