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What is the public sector equality duty?


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The public sector equality duty consists of a general equality duty, which is set out in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 itself, and the specific duties which came into law on the 10th September 2011 in England and 6 April in Wales (tbc in Scotland) which are imposed by secondary legislation. The general equality duty came into force on 5 April 2011.

In summary, those subject to the equality duty must, in the exercise of their functions, have due regard to the need to:

* Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Act.
* Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.
* Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.

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What is the public sector equality duty?

  1. 1. 1/20/2015 1 The Public Sector Equality Duty Public bodies in England (and non-devolved bodies in Scotland and Wales)
  2. 2. 1/20/2015 2 The general equality duty This came into force on 5 April 2011. In the exercise of their functions, public authorities in England, Scotland and Wales must have due regard to the need to: • Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and any other unlawful conduct in the Equality Act 2010. • Advance equality of opportunity • Foster good relations
  3. 3. 1/20/2015 3 Advancing equality Remove or minimise disadvantages suffered by people with protected characteristics due to having that characteristic. Take steps to meet the needs of people with protected characteristics that are different from people who do not have that characteristic (including taking account of a disability). Encourage protected groups to participate in public life and in any other activity where participation is disproportionately low.
  4. 4. 1/20/2015 4 Fostering good relations Tackle prejudice Promote understanding
  5. 5. 1/20/2015 5 Protected characteristics Age Disability Pregnancy and maternity Religion or belief Race Sex Sexual orientation Gender reassignment Marriage and civil partnerships (but just for the first aim of the duty)
  6. 6. 1/20/2015 6 Benefits of the equality duty Help public authorities avoid discriminatory practices and integrate equality into their core business. Ensure services are more appropriate to users which are more efficient and cost-effective, improving public satisfaction. Build a supportive working environment to increase productivity. More representative organisations can draw on a broader range of talent. Using up to date equality information can lead to better decision-making and policy development.
  7. 7. 1/20/2015 7 Who the general duty applies to Public authorities listed in Schedule 19 of the Equality Act (e.g. local authorities, FE and HE bodies, schools, health bodies, police, fire and transport authorities, government departments). Public, private, or voluntary organisations carrying out public functions (including on behalf of a public authority). The Equality Act uses the same definition as the Human Rights Act 1998 (which was used for the gender and disability equality duties).
  8. 8. 1/20/2015 8 Equality information Equality information is useful for assessing relevance, setting objectives, planning engagement and for assessing the impact of your policies and services on equality and good relations. Collect and use information across your functions, across the aims of the general equality duty, and across the protected characteristics. Identify any information gaps and take steps to fill them. Establish a timeframe for collecting any new data.
  9. 9. 1/20/2015 9 Sensitive equality information Where employees and service users are not ready to be asked about certain characteristics (e.g. sexual orientation), take steps to develop a culture of trust so this can be done in the future. If this information is collected, explain why it is being collected, how it will be used, and how privacy will be protected. Analysing national or local research and engagement with protected groups is also useful for identifying issues of concern.
  10. 10. 1/20/2015 10 Assessing the impact on equality Assessing the impact on equality of your policies and practices is an important part of complying with the general equality duty. The general equality duty does not specify how you should undertake your assessments. Case law from the previous duties indicates that these assessments should be done before decisions are made, and that a written record is useful for demonstrating compliance.
  11. 11. 1/20/2015 11 Case law principles Those who exercise functions must be aware of the duty’s requirements and decision-makers must be fully aware of the implications of the duty when making decisions about policies. The duty must be complied with before and at the time a policy is under consideration and decisions are taken. Consideration of equality matters should be an integral part of decision-making. The duty must influence the final decision. Third parties exercising public functions for a public authority must comply with the duty.
  12. 12. 1/20/2015 12 Commissioning and procurement The general equality duty applies to procurement and commissioning by authorities listed in schedule 19, regardless of the value of the contract. The general equality duty applies to procurement and commissioning by organisations who are delivering public functions (but only in relation to their public functions).
  13. 13. 1/20/2015 13 The specific duties The general duty is supported by specific duties. Their purpose is to help public authorities meet the general duty. Meeting the specific duties alone is not sufficient to meet the general equality duty. The specific duties are different for England, Scotland and Wales.
  14. 14. 1/20/2015 14 Who the specific duties apply to The specific duties in England apply to all public authorities listed in Schedule 1 of the specific duties regulations. This covers most (but not all) of the public authorities listed in Schedule 19 of the Equality Act 2010.
  15. 15. 1/20/2015 15 Specific duties (England) 1. Publish equality information: Public authorities to publish information annually to demonstrate compliance with the general equality duty. This had to be done for the first time by 31 January 2012, and 6 April 2012 for schools and pupil referral units. Public authorities with under 150 employees are not required to publish information on their employees (but should collect this to help develop their objectives and assess the impact of their employment policies on equality).
  16. 16. 1/20/2015 16 Specific duties (England) This information shall include information relating to people with protected characteristics who are: •Employees •Affected by its policies and practices All information should be published in an accessible manner. It can be published individually or as part of another document.
  17. 17. 1/20/2015 17 Specific duties (England) 2. Prepare and publish equality objectives Public authorities to prepare and publish one or more equality objectives it thinks it should achieve to meet the general equality duty. To be done at least every four years. This was to be done for the first time by 6 April 2012. Ensure the objectives are specific and measurable.
  18. 18. 1/20/2015 18 Monitoring and enforcement The Equality and Human Rights Commission is responsible for monitoring and enforcing the equality duty. Individuals with an interest can apply for judicial review in relation to a breach of the general equality duty. The range of enforcement tools set out for the Commission under the Equality Act 2006 still apply to the equality duty. These include: compliance notices, judicial review, section 31 assessments, section 23 agreements and legal interventions.
  19. 19. 1/20/2015 19 Messages for public authorities Clear leadership is crucial (including informing staff of their obligations). Take action proportionate to the relevance of an issue to equality and to good relations. The equality duty applies across your work (e.g. services, policy- making, employment, planning, procurement, statutory decision- making). Guidance on the equality duty is available at: