The Equality Act 2010 (the Act) replaces previous anti-discrimination laws with a single Act. It simplifies the law, removing inconsistencies and making it easier for people to understand and comply with. It also strengthens the law in important ways, to help tackle discrimination and inequality.
The public sector Equality Duty (section 149 of the Act) came into force on 5th April 2011. The Equality Duty applies to public bodies and others carrying out public functions. It supports good decision-making by ensuring public bodies consider how different people will be affected by their activities, helping them to deliver policies and services which are efficient and effective; accessible to all; and which meet different people’s needs.
The Equality Duty replaces the three previous public sector equality duties - for race, disability and gender. The Equality Duty now covers the following protected characteristics:
The Equality Duty has three aims. It requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to:
Having due regard, means consciously thinking about the three aims of the Equality Duty as part of the process of decision-making. This means that consideration of equality issues must influence the decisions reached by public bodies - such as in how they act as employers; how they develop, evaluate and review policy; how they design, deliver and evaluate services, and how they commission and procure from others.
The Equality Duty is supported by specific duties, set out in regulations which came into force on 10th September 2011. The specific duties require HSE, as a public body to: