Using the equality duty to make fair financial decisions

With major reductions in public spending, organisations in Great Britain are being required to make difficult financial decisions. The equality duty requires public authorities to demonstrate that they are making financial decisions in a fair, transparent and accountable way, considering the needs and the rights of different members of their community. This is achieved through assessing the impact that changes to policies and practices could have on different protected groups.

The duty does not prevent public authorities from making difficult decisions such as reorganisations and relocations, redundancies, and service reductions, nor does it stop public authorities from making decisions which may impact on one group more than another group.

Assessing the impact on equality of proposed changes to policies, procedures and practices is not just something the law requires, it is a positive opportunity for public authorities to ensure they make better decisions based on robust evidence. The assessment does not necessarily have to take the form of a document called an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) but you can choose to do so if it is helpful. It will help you to demonstrate compliance if you:

  • Ensure you have a written record of the equality considerations you have taken into account
  • Ensure that your decision-making includes a consideration of the actions that would help to avoid or mitigate any negative impacts on particular protected groups.
  • make your decisions based on evidence
  • make your decision-making process more transparent

The equality duty is a legal obligation and public authorities need to meet the requirements of the duty, even in times of economic difficulty. Failure to meet the equality duty may result in public authorities being exposed need to meet  to costly, time-consuming and reputation-damaging legal challenges.

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