LETTER:Women can win in court Women win in the courts

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The Independent Online
ALTHOUGH we recognise that progress towards equality between men and women remains patchy, Geraldine Bedell's article "Why women still can't win" (14 January) understates the vital role of the laws on sex equality.

Had there not been the two equality laws (the Sex Discrimination Act and Equal Pay Act), and European laws, women would not have gained greater protection against pregnancy dismissal, sexual harassment, and unfair redundancy selection.

Using the law, employment protection rights have been extended to half a million part-time workers. The ceiling on compensation for sex discrimination has been lifted. Men have successfully challenged unequal occupational retirement ages, discrimination in early retirement schemes and, most recently, their ineligibility for free prescriptions at 60. The Equal Opportunities Commission has challenged the inadequacy of British law in areas such as equal pay and social security and won significant victories. Some of these have been against the Government - hardly the actions of an organisation "studiously avoiding anything too radical" as your writer suggests.

The article also refers to criticisms about targets. The EOC stands by its support for the use of targets. In our experience targets and the use of lawful positive action are criticised when they are confused with quotas and positive discrimination which are unlawful.

Targets are a fundamental tool for successful business management in every area, including human resources management. Used correctly, targets encourage appointments to be made on merit, not on gender.

Kamlesh Bahl

Chairwoman, Equal Opportunities Commission

London SW1