What is the Equality Act?
The Equality Act 2010 brought together and updated a wide range of laws passed since the 1970s into one place, to make things fairer for everyone. It sets out the personal characteristics that are protected by law and the behaviour that is unlawful. The Act is a simplification of previous anti-discrimination laws.
Who is protected by the Act?
Everyone in Britain is protected from unlawful behaviour by the Act. The ‘protected characteristics’ under the Act are:
- Gender Reassignment
- Marriage and civel partnerships
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Race (ethnic or national origin, colour or nationality)
- Religion or belief (including lack of belief)
- Sexual Orientation
What is the public sector general 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. The general equality duty requires the University to have due regard to the need to:
- eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Equality Act 2010
- advance equality of opportunity between people from different groups. This involves considering the need to:
- remove or minimise disadvantages suffered by people due to their protected characteristics
- meet the needs of people with protected characteristicsencourage people with protected characteristics to participate in public life or in other activities where their participation is low
- foster good relations between people from different groups.
- This involves tackling prejudice and promoting understanding between people from different groups
What are the public sector specific duties?
The focus of the specific duties is transparency in how HEIs are responding to the equality duty. It is important to note that institutions must meet both the equality duty and the specific duties – it is not enough to meet the specific duties alone. There are three specific duties:
- publication of information - Information must be published on an annual basis to demonstrate compliance with the equality duty. This information should include information relating to people who share a relevant protected characteristic and of others affected by policies and practices e.g. students.equality
- objectives - we should prepare and publish one or more specific and measurable objective(s) that we thinks we should be able to achieve to meet any of the three aims of the equality duty. The objective(s) must be reviewed and published at intervals of no greater than four years
- manner of publication - We should publish information and equality objective(s) in a manner that is accessible to the public. They may be within another published document.
Who is responsible for enforcing the public sector Equality Duty?
The Equality and Human Rights Commission is responsible for enforcing the equality duty. The Commission may seek to take steps to encourage compliance by public body, before moving to enforcement, where appropriate. The Commission has a number of special statutory powers that it is able to use to enforce the specific duties and the general duty. Both the Commission and affected persons can apply to the High Court for a judicial review in respect of a failure to comply with the general duty.