Scottish Qualifications Authority signs legal agreement to improve equality practices

Published: 30 Sep 2021

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has signed an agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to improve its equality practices.

The agreement commits SQA to complete outstanding Equality Impact Assessments for its current policies and practices. It has also agreed to improve its approach to carrying out assessments for any new policies it may develop. 

The SQA entered into the agreement with the equality body following discussions about how it was meeting its obligations under the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED).

The EHRC established that SQA was not routinely assessing the impact of its policies and practices against the three needs of the PSED, which requires public authorities to give due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different groups.

This is one of nine specific duties which help public authorities in Scotland meet the general equality duty.

Lynn Welsh, Head of Legal at the Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland, said:

“Considering equality implications when making decisions isn’t a ‘nice to do’ for public bodies, it is a legal requirement to ensure that public institutions make better quality, robust decisions which work for everyone.

“By signing this agreement, we are pleased to see that the SQA has demonstrated its clear commitment to equality and to improving its practices. This will ensure that SQA continues to make necessary improvements in this area, reviewing all existing policies and ensuring that equality is at the heart of all of its practices.

“This agreement sends a clear message to other public bodies that considering the impact of their work on people from protected groups is critical in fulfilling their legal duties.” 

Mike Baxter, Director of Finance & Corporate Services at SQA said:

“Although we have significantly tightened up on equality impact assessments in recent years, we recognise there is work to do to improve our processes and practice from years gone by. We will be taking this opportunity to work with the Commission to further embed equality into our policies and processes across SQA’s activities. Over the next two years we will be delivering our agreed action plan across a range of work streams. We are fully committed to ensuring equality and fairness are at the heart of all we do.

“We have embarked on a large-scale programme of review of our policies and practices and assessing and documenting the equalities impacts of those is a core element of this work.”

The EHRC has used its legal powers under section 23 of the Equality Act, to enter into the agreement with SQA. The agreement will be in place for two years and SQA will also implement an agreed action plan and report to the regulator on its progress.

The equality regulator will monitor the agreed actions to make sure they are completed and will carry out an evaluation at the end of the two years.

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