Legal assistance from the Commission

Important information about time scales

Our powers to provide assistance

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has a range of powers, which includes providing:

  • legal assistance under section 28 of the Equality Act 2006; 

Section 28 of the Equality Act 2006 allows us to provide assistance to an individual who is or may become party to legal proceedings if the proceedings relate or may relate to a provision of the equality enactments. The Commission can only offer assistance if the individual alleges that he or she has been the victim of behaviour that breaches equality law.

How we decide which cases to assist

The Commission may decide to use its powers in circumstances which we judge are covered by equality legislation; we will sometimes also consider if the cases are likely to succeed and are of a kind that we have decided to strategically prioritise. In deciding whether or not your case should receive assistance, the Commission is bound by the provisions of Section 28 of the Act but, as stated above, will also take into account if it falls within our strategic legal priorities. In addition we will consider any public benefit criteria, for example the capacity of the case to have a widespread impact. 

Our strategic legal priorities include identifying and assisting with cases that will test the law and have wider significance for groups of people in key areas. Our legal strategy can be found on this page of the site

We receive a huge number of requests for assistance, but can only provide legal representation in a very small number of these. We appreciate that it will be disappointing if we are not able to offer assistance. Unfortunately, with limited resources and an obligation to use these resources as effectively as possible the Commission cannot offer assistance to everybody and must focus on cases with strategic impact.

Timescales for deciding about legal assistance

If a matter is referred from our Helpline to our Casework and Litigation team, we will assess the matter within the timescales outlined below. If a decision is needed more quickly than this allows it is unlikely that the Commission will be able to provide assistance. It is important to note that not all Helpline matters are referred to the Casework and Litigation team.

If and once your case has initially been passed to a casework and litigation officer they will look at the facts of the case and decide whether they satisfy the provisions of section 28 and fall within our strategic legal priorities. If necessary, they will contact you for further information. This initial stage can take 4 to 6 weeks. Your application for assistance may be refused at this stage.

If your case is assessed to be one which can be referred for a decision on assistance, the Commission will then, at its sole discretion, consider your application. If your case gets through this initial assessment, your application for assistance will be considered by the Commission's Legal Assistance and Review Panel (or the Regulatory Committee). The Panel or Committee will use its discretion to decide what assistance, if any, to offer. The decision will be communicated to you as soon as possible after it has been made. Please be aware that it could take a further 4 to 6 weeks before a decision is made. The time taken could be longer depending on the status of your legal claim and amount of additional information we may require in order to assess your case. 

It remains your sole responsibility to make sure that you comply with any time limits for bringing proceedings and comply with any statutory or Court / Tribunal requirements until such time as the Commission advises you in writing or otherwise.  Read more about time limits.

Timescales for making referrals

As a general rule, if it is an employment matter, the Commission requests that the referral reaches our Helpline or Casework and Litigation Team at least 12 weeks from the date of hearing, and certainly within a minimum of 9 weeks, so that we can properly consider the matter, advise on it and, if support is provided, prepare the matter.

Alternatively, working from the date of incident complained about, the Commission requests that no more than 4 weeks have passed since the date of the incident.

For service provision the referral must be received at least 12 weeks from the Court deadline so that the case can be assessed and also so that mediation can be considered. The Court deadline for proceedings to be issued in these cases is 6 months minus 1 day.

Section 28 requests made directly by Solicitors/CABs/advisory agency:

The process for these requests for legal assistance is as follows:

  1. Cases are first assessed by our Helpline as to whether or not they are appropriate for a referral to Casework and Litigation team.
  2. If they are, a CRM record will be created by the Helpline.
  3. Solicitor/advisor seeking assistance for their claimant will be informed to contact Casework and Litigation team directly.
  4. If correspondence is received by the Helpline it will be posted to the Casework and Litigation team with a cover note containing the CRM reference number. 

Please note that Section 28 assistance is not an automatic right. Contacting the Helpline does not necessarily triggering an automatic referral to the Casework and Litigation team. Helpline advisers have to check in the first instance whether the matter appears to meet the criteria and then agree this with the Casework and Litigation team. We do not refer cases to the Regulatory Committee for a Section 28 decision if they are not likely to be supported.

See also: 

Last Updated: 14 Jan 2011