Enforcement powers

Introduction

One of the Commission's key roles as a modern regulator is to use our enforcement powers. These powers are vested in the Commission by the Equality Act 2006.   This section signposts you to different aspects of our enforcement work.  For more information please download our Compliance and Enforcement policy. You can also find out about our enforcement work in our latest 'Legal enforcement update'.

Our enforcement powers

The Commission is extremely effective at resolving cases at an early stage, without the need for formal enforcement proceedings.  About 80 per cent of cases (approximately 99 to date) have been resolved in this way.  However, we will not hesitate to invoke our formal enforcement powers where this is necessary.

Inquiries

The Commission can conduct an inquiry into any matter which relates to sections 8, 9 or 10 of the Equality Act, namely equality and diversity, human rights or good relations between groups. There is no specific standard of evidence needed to trigger an inquiry. The Commission does not need to suspect that there has been a breach of equality or human rights legislations to launch an inquiry.  For details of our formal Inquiries:

Assessments

Assessments are used to test compliance with public sector equality duties and enable the Commission to scrutinise compliance by particular public authorities with the race, disability or gender equality general and specific duties. Assessments can be used to obtain evidence for further enforcement action to secure compliance, as well as identifying areas of best practice in the performance of the duties.

We have undertaken a Public sector duty assessment into the Department for Work and Pensions, through Jobcentre Plus

Interventions

The Commission has an obligation to intervene in certain legal proceedings. We take a strategic approach when deciding to intervene. We will generally intervene in cases where it can use its expertise to clarify or challenge an important element of the law. The cases generally involve serious matters of public policy or general public concern. The outcome of these cases often has a wide impact as they set precedents to be followed by the lower courts.

You can download a list of completed cases the Commission has intervened in here (Word).

You can also download a complete list of our interventions in the European Court of Human Rights  (Word)

Agreements

The Commission can enter into a formal agreement with a person who it believes has committed an unlawful act. This will involve putting in place an action plan. In many instances an agreement will be entered into as an alternative to taking other formal enforcement action. Agreements can be entered into even where there has been no formal investigation. Entering into an action plan is not taken as an admission that there has been an unlawful act.

Alternatively the Commission may suspend an investigation on the basis of a section 23 agreement that we will not investigate or issue unlawful act notice provided that the other party undertakes not to commit an unlawful act and takes specified actions.

Once the agreement and action plan is in place the Commission will keep in regular contact and require the organisation to report regularly on progress. During the monitoring phase of an agreement, we frequently build a close working relationship with the organisation in question, generating considerable cooperation and goodwill, and leading in some cases to those organisations becoming champions of best practice in equality and advocates for the work of the Commission.

However, if there is a failure to comply with an undertaking in the agreement or we think that compliance is unlikely, the Commission can take further action through the courts.

See also:

Compliance notice

Where the Commission thinks that a public authority has not complied with a public sector duty, we have the power to serve a compliance notice. The notice may require compliance with the duty or provide an opportunity for the written proposal to show the steps which will be taken to ensure compliance. This written information must be produced to the Commission within 28 days of receipt of the compliance notice.

A notice may also require further information to be produced to the Commission for the purposes of assessing compliance.

A person who receives a compliance notice must comply with it. Failure to comply can result in the Commission applying to the relevant court for an order requiring compliance. Failure to comply with the court order is a criminal offence.

Legal enforcement case studies

In order to illustrate our enforcement work we have summarised examples of enforcement action that we have taken since October 2007.

Last Updated: 29 May 2014