The General Equality Duty
The Equality Act 2010 replaced the previous anti-discrimination laws with a single Act.
A key measure included within the Act was the introduction of the Public Sector Equality Duty which came into force on 5 April 2011 and which is referrred to as the General Equality Duty.
The General Equality Duty has three aims. It requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to:
- eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct prohibited by the Act;
- advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it; and
- foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it.
The duty to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination also covers marriage and civil partnership. The Equality Act also gives Ministers the power to impose specific duties through regulations. The specific duties are legal requirements designed to help those public bodies covered by the specific duties meet the general duty.
Following a government consultation, the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011 were been laid before Parliament for approval, and came into force on 10 September 2011.
The specific duties for Scotland were laid before the Scottish Parliament on 21 March 2012 and came into force on 27 May 2012.
The specific duties for Wales were approved by the National Assembly for Wales and commenced on 6 April 2011.
These regulations will promote the better performance of the equality duty by requiring the publication of:
- equality objectives, at least every four years
- information to demonstrate their compliance with the equality duty, at least annually