What is a Service Provider?

A service provider is any organisation that provides goods, facilities or services to the public, whether paid for or free, no matter how large or small the organisation is.

The definition of ‘service provider’ is quite broad: it includes most organisations that deal directly with members of the public. There is a list of examples below

For example, a manufacturer that sells goods only through retailers would not be considered a service provider, but the retailers would.

Similarly, an investment bank that deals only with other companies and not with the public would be excluded from the definition; a high street bank, though, would be included.

Services also include public amenities such as parks, public buildings, leisure facilities and railway stations, whether they are run by the Government or by private companies. However, public authorities, and those acting on their behalf have additional responsibilities. See the section on Public authorities.

Private members’ clubs which operate a strict selection procedure for membership, or clubs which provide services only to their members, are generally exempt from equality legislation. However, club members and employees must not be subjected to unlawful discrimination. Disabled people who are club members are entitled to reasonable adjustments under the Disability Discrimination Act. See Private clubs and associations

There are some circumstances in which your responsibilities as a service provider may be different:

  • If you provide goods or services on behalf of a public sector client, you may have to comply with their additional legal responsibilities under the public sector duties to promote equality.
  • Under the Disability Discrimination Act, service providers must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ where these are needed to ensure that disabled people are not disadvantaged when using them.
  • If there is a genuine reason for providing a service to certain groups of people only, you may be able to do so. Find out more about when discrimination is lawful.
  • If making reasonable adjustments for disabled people would lead to you breaking a different legal obligation, you may not be required to do it. See Making reasonable adjustments for more information.

Working for public sector organisations

If you or your organisation are contractors providing goods or services on behalf of a public authority, your client will have a duty to make sure that you work in a way that positively promotes equality, rather than simply avoiding discrimination.

Examples of service providers

The definiton of service providers includes shops and commerical services, clubs and associations. Here are some examples to illustrate the how broadly the term 'service provider' is interpreted: 
  • advice agencies
  • charities and voluntary organisations
  • churches or other places of worship
  • courts
  • emergency services
  • employment agencies
  • housing associations, estate agents and private landlords
  • financial services providers such as investment companies, banks and buildin
  • societies, accountants
  • hospitals and clinics
  • hotels, B&Bs, guest houses and hostels
  • housing associations
  • law firms
  • libraries and museums
  • mail, telephone or online retailers
  • parks and other public spaces
  • petrol stations
  • post offices
  • property developers and management agencies
  • public utilities (such as gas, electricity and water suppliers)
  • pubs and restaurants
  • railway stations, bus stations and airports
  • rented business premises
  • services provided by local councils, government departments and agencies
  • shops and market stalls
  • some types of clubs
  • sports and leisure facilities
  • telecommunications and broadcasting services
  • theatres and cinemas.

Example

A person who has undergone or is undergoing gender reassignment may wish to use the facilities in a local sports centre, but may fear barriers or discrimination. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has produced guidance about transsexual people taking part in sports (Pdf) available on the Press for Change website. Press for Change has also published guidance for the managers of sports centres in how to help trans people to be able to use their services safely.

Last Updated: 04 Jun 2009