New public sector equality duty comes into force

05 April 2011

Today marks a milestone in equality law with the introduction of the new public sector equality duty (PSED). Part of the Equality Act 2010, the PSED will ensure public sector organisations have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity, and foster good relations across all of the protected characteristics.

For the first time, public sector bodies will be required to demonstrate equality across all strands, including age, sexual orientation and religion or belief. This builds on the existing duties relating to disability, gender and race, and improves the coverage in relation to gender reassignment.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has produced easy to understand guidance to help public authorities fulfil their duties. Many public authorities are already demonstrating progress with equality and have found practical ways to eliminate discrimination in their services or workplace. For these authorities, the only change will be the newly extended protection to other characteristics.

Andrea Murray, the Commission's Director of Policy, said:

'For equality to flourish it is important that public bodies understand the impact of their decisions on all groups in society and that they can be held to account for them.

'The new duty broadens the issues that public bodies have to take into account when making decisions. It requires them to understand the needs of their service users and to reflect equality considerations in their employment practice, the design of policies and the delivery of services.'

For more information on the new laws, go to the Public sector equality duty section.

Ends

For more press information contact the Commission's media office on 020 3117 0255, out of hours 07767 272 818.

For general enquiries please contact the Commission's national helpline: England 0845 604 6610, Scotland 0845 604 5510 or Wales 0845 604 8810.

Notes to editors

The new duty is encompassed in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010.

The nine protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

The Commission's guidance can be found in the Public sector equality duty section.

The Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission. It is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain. It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights. The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act. It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.