The Equality Act 2010 and the Public Sector Equality Duty

The Equality Duty was created by the Equality Act 2010 and replaces the race, disability and gender equality duties. The duty came into force in April 2011 and applies in England, Scotland and in Wales.

In summary, those bodies subject to the General Equality Duty must have due regard to the need to:

  • Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under this Act
  • Advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it
  • Foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it

The General Equality Duty

The General Equality Duty, at Section 149 of the Equality Act, requires public bodies to consider all individuals when carrying out their day to day work - in shaping policy, in delivering services and in relation to their own employees.

The act contains a number of specific duties which are intended to evidence compliance and progress against the General Duties. These duties require public bodies to:

Publish equality information to demonstrate compliance with the general equality duty by 31 January 2012, then annually there after.

  1. This information shall include information relating to people from protected groups who are: 
        - Employees 
        - People affected by its policies and practices (eg. service users)  
  2. Prepare and publish one or more equality objectives it thinks it should achieve to meet the general equality duty, by 6 April 2012, and at least every four years after that.

Bodies must ensure that the objectives are specific and measurable.

Protected Characteristics

The new Equality Duty covers the following eight Protected Characteristics:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

The duty also covers marriage and civil partnership, but not for all aspects of the duty. People with those characteristics are referred to as protected groups.

The previous duties covered by legislation protected race, disability and gender. Some aspects of the previous gender duty covered gender reassignment but the new duty now gives full coverage to this group.