Business plan: 2021 to 2022

Foreword from our Chair

I was delighted to have been appointed as the Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission last December. I am looking forward to using our unique powers to deliver real change to advance equality and human rights in Britain, and respond to the challenges the coronavirus pandemic has caused. I will be leading a refreshed Board of Commissioners as we develop our new strategic plan for 2022 to 2025.

It has been an unprecedented year. In March 2020, almost overnight, millions of people moved to working from home, schools and childcare closed down, and transport infrastructure came to a standstill.

The long-term economic and social effects of the pandemic will take time to work through, although our own research, corroborated by many others, has found that the emerging impacts across different areas of life have been unequal, and existing inequalities have been exacerbated.

Despite the significant interventions of the Government and the extension of job retention schemes, unemployment is on the rise and likely to increase further. As we begin this year to develop our new strategic plan, we will be looking closely at what role we can play to help address the challenges we see in relation to work, the impact on children and young people, and how we can support efforts to build a fairer and more resilient society and economy in the longer term. 

This is the final year of our three-year strategic plan for 2019 to 2022. We have achieved most of what we said we would. However, like all other organisations we had to rapidly adapt our plans in response to the pandemic. We developed new areas of work focusing on the emerging concerns about the impact of the pandemic on race equality and users of social care.

These and other issues arising from the pandemic will continue to influence our priorities in the upcoming year. We also face other significant uncertainties as a result of leaving the European Union and the planned review of the Human Rights Act. We will continue to engage closely with these developments to ensure current human rights protections are maintained and strengthened.

Baroness Kishwer Falkner, Chair

Our progress to date

We have worked hard to deliver our priority objectives while also starting new work in response to the pandemic.

We published the findings of two high-profile investigations into:

  • allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party
  • pay discrimination against female employees in the BBC

We also published our formal assessment concluding that the Home Office failed to comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty in developing and implementing hostile environment policies. We are doing further work based on these findings to help improve compliance across governments.

At the beginning of the year we responded quickly to the pandemic. We developed two new major programmes of work in response to the disproportionate impacts on ethnic minorities and on older and disabled people in care homes.

Our work on race cuts across all of our aims and seeks to make sure that longstanding and structural race inequalities are acknowledged, measured and reduced.

Our work on social care aims to make sure that equality and human rights considerations are embedded into the design and delivery of social care going forward.

Each of these strands of work involves an inquiry which will be published in 2021 to 2022 (our inquiry on social care will focus on England and Wales only).

We also:

  • issued guidance for employers on how to avoid unlawful discrimination in managing employees’ return to work
  • worked with exam regulators across Britain to make sure that school closures and exam cancellations did not worsen existing inequalities for children, including those from certain ethnic minority backgrounds, disabled children and those with special educational needs
  • raised our concerns with governments, parliaments and the private sector about the impact of the pandemic on key rights and freedoms. This included how the pandemic has affected:
    • health and social care and access to treatment
    • work and income, including gig economy workers and the self-employed
    • treatment in institutions
    • education, including the effect of school closures on children with special educational needs
    • discrimination in awarding qualifications
    • living standards, including access to food and housing
  • produced a report in our ‘Is Britain Fairer?’ series, bringing together emerging evidence of the impact of the pandemic on society
  • launched the second phase of our human rights tracker, an online tool that helps people monitor how well the UK and Welsh governments are putting their human rights duties into practice to improve accountability and highlights areas where action needs to be taken
  • published and promoted guidance to remind retailers of their legal obligations to make sure disabled customers can shop for food and other essentials during the pandemic

What we will do in 2021 to 2022

Over the year ahead we will continue to work across Britain to make sure that equality and human rights considerations are central to plans for building back better.

We will make sure that our work is adapted to devolved contexts, addressing the specific equality and human rights challenges in England, Scotland and Wales. In Scotland we share our mandate to promote and protect human rights with the Scottish Human Rights Commission.

We will continue to use the range of our powers in combination, from our enforcement functions, through to our wider statutory duties to promote equality of opportunity and protect human rights, to make progress and maximise impact across our aims.

This business plan sets out:

  • what we want to achieve to deliver our priorities in this final year of our current strategic plan 2019 to 2022
  • how we will measure the impact of our work on equality and human rights across England, Scotland and Wales

Our priorities for 2021 to 2022 include:

  • strengthening equality and human rights laws, including through work to improve compliance with the Public Sector Equality Duty, providing expert advice to governments, and using our enforcement powers to tackle unlawful breaches
  • supporting equal access to and fair treatment in work, including through concluding our inquiry into the experiences of low-paid ethnic minority workers in the health and social care sectors, and by enforcing the Gender Pay Gap Regulations
  • improving people’s ability to seek redress, and the fair treatment of people in the criminal justice system, including disabled people, and victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence
  • making sure equality considerations are taken into account when awarding qualifications during and following the pandemic, and following up on the recommendations of our inquiry into the use of restraint and seclusion in schools
  • taking forward a range of work to make sure people’s rights in social care settings are properly respected

The levelling up agenda

We have an important role to play in helping creating a more inclusive economy after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

We are already working with central, devolved, regional and local government to define practical ways that equality considerations can be built into decision-making and service delivery. We will also continue to engage with organisations on how they can develop strategies and set equality objectives that address the particular challenges highlighted by the pandemic.

We have developed a range of tools and guidance, including in relation to public sector procurement, and have recently provided advice to metro mayoral candidates in England on how they can use their powers to promote fairness and equality.

We will continue to share our evidence and expertise to support the development of approaches that tackle socio-economic and geographical inequalities, as well as inequalities between groups who share protected characteristics.

An expert and authoritative evidence base

We provide independent, expert and authoritative advice and evidence to:

  • governments
  • parliaments
  • public bodies
  • other organisations, including private sector employers, and voluntary sector organisations

Our evidence and expert advice helps these bodies to make informed decisions on matters affecting equality and human rights for people in Britain.

Due to the pandemic we have decided to defer publication of our next full ‘Is Britain Fairer?’ report. This will allow us to take full account of the consequences of the pandemic.

In 2021 to 2022 we will focus on undertaking research and producing thematic evidence reports on specific topics, including violence against women and girls, and the future of work.

Plan on a page

Our 'plan on a page' sets out what we want to achieve in 2021 to 2022. 

Forecast spend and budget

We continue to deliver our statutory functions effectively and efficiently, maximising the impact of our work without increasing our total budget.

Our total budget is £18,250,000 made up of:

  • resource funding of £17,100,000 (£12,293,000 administration and £4,807,000 programme)
  • capital funding of £500,000
  • depreciation funding of £650,000
Spend type 2020 to 2021 forecast outturn (£'000) Estimated 2021 to 2022 budget (£'000)
Administration 11,583 12,293
Programme 5,140 4,807
Total resource 16,723 17,100
Capital 390 500
Depreciation 520 650

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Last updated: 12 Apr 2021