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Equal Employment And Occupational Treatment Directive

Volume 623: debated on Tuesday 20 March 2001

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will list those Directives agreed under Article 13 of the Treaty of European Union, and any Acts of Parliament amended by those Directives, that require the defendants in a civil action to prove their innocence of the charges of discrimination brought against them. [HL885]

The Directive establishing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of race or ethnic origin (2000/43/EC) and the Directive establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation (2000/78/EC) agreed under Article 13 of the Treaty of the European Union both include provisions relating to the burden of proof in cases (other than criminal proceedings) of alleged discrimination. These provisions do not mean that defendants will be required "to prove their innocence" in such cases. Instead they stipulate that, where a claimant is able to prove facts from which the Court or tribunal can properly infer that discrimination has occcured, it will be for the defendants to show that their actions did not contravene the law. This is a shift rather than a reversal of the burden of proof and largley represents what already happens in practice in the UK in sex and race discrimination cases, following the judgment from the House of Lords in Zafar v Glasgow City Council (1998 IRLR 36). The Directive requires this approach to be formalised as a rule of law in the Race Relations Act 1976 and in the new legislation needed to give effect to Directive 2000/78/EC.