The Government has published a guide on the Equality Act 2010’s specific public sector equality duties, in order to help public organisations in their compliance.
Specific equality duties are intended to aid public authorities in complying with the general equality duty, which is aimed at ensuring that all public bodies play their part in tackling discrimination and providing equal opportunities for all.
The Government’s quick-start guide on the specific public sector equality duties, which came into force in September 2011, provides information on publishing equality information and objectives.
Under the general public equality duty, public authorities are required to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation; to advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic, such as race, disability or gender, and those who do not; and to foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.
Anne Dokov, lead officer for diversity for the Public Sector People Managers’ Association, told Personnel Today: “While this duty is a new requirement, HR in the public services is quite used to thinking of equality and diversity issues, so it is familiar ground. If done well, it enables organisations to show that their decisions are being made in a fair, transparent and accountable way.
“If you are about to introduce a new policy or practice, the equality impact needs to be part of the planning from the outset. You should tailor your assessment to the type of change you are introducing so it is proportionate and need not be onerous. Make sure decisions are based on the evidence you’ve got, carry out high quality analysis and mitigate any potential adverse effects. The new duty is an opportunity to make better quality decisions based on robust information.”
The duties apply to public bodies in England and the non-devolved public functions of public bodies in Scotland and Wales.
However, there are separate Regulations relating to specific duties for public bodies in Wales, and the Scottish Government is currently consulting on specific duties in relation to relevant Scottish public authorities.