Public sector bodies with more than 150 staff may have to spend up to £29.8m on auditing their employees on such issues as sexuality and religion in accordance with plans by the Labour’s Equality Act.

The audits – expected to take each body around eight days a year to complete – will determine the race, disability, gender and age of staff as well as their sexual orientation, religion and belief. The government has worked out that complying with the new ‘Equality Duty could cost each body around £1,090.

The government has claimed that the move will give councils, hospitals, schools, police forces and other bodies a net saving of “between £18m and £31m” – because it is replacing existing equality reporting requirements – Dominic Raab, MP for Esher and Walton, said: “We should be junking, not adopting, this bit of Labour’s Equality Act. It is financially illiterate to suggest that forcing up to 27,000 public bodies to audit their staff for social quotas will save money – the last thing the public sector needs or the taxpayer wants.”

Making the announcement, equalities minister Lynne Featherstone said: “The focus on delivery and achieving real outcomes will ensure that every taxpayer gets better value for money and public services that take account of their needs.”