The enforcement powers of the Equality and Human Rights Commission have been used in over 300 cases since they were introduced 18 months ago.

That is according to a review of the commission’s enforcement work, which revealed that a third of the cases dealt with have been concluded successfully.

Some 80 per cent of those that were resolved did not require legal intervention and the commission said this had potentially saved "court time and money".

Commenting on the benefit of such a system, Susie Uppal, legal enforcement director, said: "Taking informal action as a first step means we don’t get bogged down in expensive legal proceedings with the obvious benefit to the people who fund us – the taxpayer."

Initially set up to ensure companies were following the law as it relates to human rights, equality and good relations, the majority of the cases dealt with so far – 75 per cent – have involved issues relating to race, gender or disability.

Ms Uppal said that most of the companies involved in cases were keen to "do the right thing" and could see the value of "treating their staff, customers or clients well".

The Equality and Human Rights Commission was established under the Equality Act 2006.