Commission publishes guidance on the Public Sector Equality Duty

15 January 2013

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published new guidance today on the public sector equality duty (PSED) under the Equality Act, which will help public authorities encourage good relations, promote equality and eliminate discrimination in the workplace and in delivering public services.

The Equality Act 2010, consolidates protection against discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. It also put in place a new public sector equality duty, which gives public authorities a legal responsibility to provide this protection and make decisions which are fair and transparent, including the allocation of public money.

The guidance gives a straightforward but comprehensive explanation of how public authorities – both as employers and service providers – should comply with the duty, as well as practical advice on how to do so.

For example, the guidance makes it clear that equality should be taken into account in all decision making where the duty is relevant. It also explains that as a matter of good practice, public authorities should keep records demonstrating how they have complied with the duty.

While this guidance is not a statutory Code of Practice, it can be used as evidence in legal proceedings. The courts have said that a body subject to the equality duty that does not follow non-statutory guidance such as this will need to justify why it has not done so. However, such guidance does not in itself impose further duties to those set out in the statute.

Ian Acheson, Chief Operating Officer at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

“This guidance will play a valuable role in raising awareness of the public sector equality duty and clarifying what compliance looks like. It will help policy makers understand the requirement to have due regard to achieving fair outcomes for different groups when drawing up policies - rather than simply filling in forms at the end of the process.

“Intelligent use of the equality duty at all stages of the policy making process leads to better targeted resources, potentially avoiding costly legal challenges and changes of policy at a later stage.”

The Commission is continuing to develop a range of guidance materials on rights, responsibilities and good practice under the Equality Act 2010, including on the public sector equality duty. Technical Guidance on the Public Sector Equality Duty and the full range of guidance available for individuals, the public sector, private businesses, service providers and employers can be found at: Equality Act Codes of Practice and Technical Guidance

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

Notes to Editors

1. The public sector equality duty, which applies to 40,000 public authorities across Great Britain, consists of a general duty supported by specific duties which differ across England, Wales and Scotland. The general duty also applies to organisations in the private and third sector when they are carrying out public functions.

2. The Commission has also produced a user-friendly guide: Meeting the equality duty in policy and decision-making, which is available from: Guidance on the equality duty.

3. In 2012, the Commission published a report of a formal Assessment (under Section 31 Equality Act 2006) of the extent to which HM Treasury met its legal obligations under the public sector equality duties to consider the impact of Spending Review decisions on protected groups. Section 31Assessment of HM Treasury.

4. 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, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status, and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act. It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.