Creating a fairer Britain
Today (18 March 2011) the Government Equalities Office (GEO) has announced that the government's draft regulations on the specific duties for England (and non-devolved bodies in Scotland and Wales) are to be revised and therefore will not become law on 6 April, as originally envisaged. The specific duties - which are different for all three nations - are intended to help public authorities meet the general equality duty.
GEO has also announced that the commencement date for the new general equality duty for England, Scotland and Wales will be 5 April 2011. Read the full announcement on the GEO website.
The general duty requires public authorities to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity, and foster good relations across all of the characteristics protected by the Equality Act 2010. These include the existing characteristics of race, disability and gender as well as some new characteristics, including age, sexual orientation, and religion or belief.
The Commission has published guidance that includes advice about meeting the general equality duty. It is essential that all public authorities understand the effect of their policies and practices, to assist them to comply with the general equality duty.
This revision of the specific duties may create a degree of uncertainty for public authorities. The Commission previously set out its views on the previous draft regulations and we will review the new proposals before submitting our views to the GEO. We support the aim to reduce bureaucracy and we will need to examine the new proposals closely to make sure that they offer organisations certainty; without that certainty public bodies will simply replace bureaucratic procedures with legalistic overprotection to guard against every possible source of challenge.
Our focus remains on providing public authorities with the information and guidance that they need to prepare for the new equality duty. In light of the new proposals we will be reviewing our non-statutory guidance on the equality duty as soon as we can. Further queries from public authorities in England (and non-devolved bodies in Scotland and Wales) should be directed to our helpline for England: 0845 604 6610
The Scottish Government is currently reconsidering its proposals for specific duties in Scotland, and so it is not yet clear when these will come into force. Read Scotland's interim advice on the Equality Act Scottish Specific Duties for more information.
Regulations to bring in the Welsh duties have been laid. If passed by the Assembly, they will come into force on 6th April 2011.
Further queries from public authorities for Scotland or Wales should be directed to the relevant national helpline:
Scotland: 0845 604 5510
Wales: 0845 604 8810
Check our website for updates and frequently asked questions on the equality duty. You can also sign-up to our monthly Email newsletter where we publish news about the Commission's work and our partners.