Public sector bodies should be required to tackle discrimination on the grounds of social-economic class as well as other types of unfair bias, the chair of the equalities watchdog said today.

Trevor Phillips, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, told delegates at a Fabian Society conference that public bodies such as councils, which are already required to fulfil statutory equalities duties in race, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief, human rights and age, should now also address inequalities created by class divides. The EHRC is charged with monitoring public bodies’ compliance with their equalities duties.

Phillips said areas linked to class, like parental occupation and where someone lived, were the best predicators of life chances and multiple times as effective as race and gender.

According to one well-connected source at the conference, the idea is being considered by 10 Downing Street. The source argued that a new class equality duty would fit neatly with the Government’s current stance on social mobility.

Sarah Veale, head of equality and employment rights at the Trades Union Congress, said the idea was enormous, exciting and proactive. But she warned that legislating to address the country’s pernicious class system might be beyond the means of our lawmakers.