How the duties affect the private and voluntary sector and partnerships

Whilst the public sector duties apply primarily to public bodies they also have implications for private and voluntary sector organisations who deliver services on behalf of public bodies.

In order to meet their own obligations under the public sector duties public bodies need to ensure:

  • that public money is not spent on practices that lead to unlawful race, disability or sex discrimination, but is used to actively promote equality of opportunity and good relations
  • that any works, goods or services they procure are provided in such a way as to enable them to meet the requirements of the duties

For example, a Primary Care Trust may when commissioning sexual health services for young people might want contractors to demonstrate their experience and ability to identify and meet the needs that are unique to boys and girls. This could include targeting particular groups of girls and boys from different ethnic groups and also teenagers with learning disabilities who are less likely to access services.

Guidance for public bodies on how to meet the duties in procurement is available on our guidance pages.

So if you provide goods or services to public authorities they may ask you to:

  • Demonstrate how you meet existing race, disability and gender equality legislation
  • Ensure relevant and proportionate equality issues are built into service design (e.g. providing for a range of dietary requirements in a meals on wheels service or accessible buses for disabled people or people travelling with push chairs)
  • Provide evidence of progress after an employment tribunal loss (and remove you from their list of suppliers if you refuse or have not taken sufficient remedial action)

There are some instances under both the disability and gender equality duties (but not the race equality duty) where private or voluntary sector organisations may, if they are exercising functions of a public nature, be subject to the general duties in their own right. For example, if a prison is run by a private firm.

You should refer to the relevant Code of Practices for more information on this aspect of the duties.


Whilst partnerships are not subject to the public sector duties in their own right (because they are not legal entities in their own right), most of their members will be. Members of any partnership such as councils, police forces or primary care trusts need to ensure they also apply the duty in all of their functions that are delivered via the partnership. If you are a member or observer of a partnership you can help make this a reality by asking what systems are in place to ensure this happens, and by drawing their attention to the key race, disability and gender equality issues.

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