On 12 June 2007 the Government published its Discrimination Law Green Paper and the deadline for comments was 4 September. One person's discrimination is another insurer's risk assessment. Today I want to cover discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.
The old legacy was not good. When HIV/AIDS first hit the UK in significant numbers, insurer's initial response was to make the mere taking of a test a proxy for HIV risk. This finally ceased in 1994.
No longer being able to decline those who had had a HIV test led to another proxy for risk. This time it was being a gay man. Initially insurers were reluctant to ask this question up front so unbelievably they used assumptions based on occupation (hairdressers, cabin crew etc).
Next they moved to asking men "the gay question". The trouble was not all gay men are as high risk as others. To deal with this they started to ask intrusive questions about monogamy and length of time of relationships.
In 2005, the industry implemented the ABI's Statement of Best Practice that meant that being a gay man was not relevant to underwriting.
But just when it seemed that planet discrimination and insurance had struck up a mutual understanding, along came civil partnerships. Some companies treated them the same as married couples, and some as single men. Treating all men in civil partnerships as single men, regardless of their behaviour, amounts to indirect discrimination. The alternative would be to differentiate between those civil partners who are more at risk.
In my view, those who treat men in civil partnerships as single men are in an indefensible situation. Either they can wait for the law to be changed by the Bill that will follow the Green Paper or they can do it now. I hope their response to the consultation was to say they no longer need the exception set out in the Sexual Orientation Regulations and we can move on from this bit of planet discrimination.
Richard Walsh is former head of health and protection at the Association of British Insurers. He now works for SPPR Consulting
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