The Equality Act, which came into force on 1 October 2010, provides the legal framework for discrimination law in England, Scotland and Wales.
What does the Equality Act do?
The Equality Act 2010 replaces the existing anti-discrimination laws with one single Act. It simplifies the law, removing inconsistencies and makes it easier for people to understand and comply with it. It also strengthens the law in important ways to help tackle discrimination and equality.
The Equality Act covers discrimination for the following nine "protected characteristics" of age, disability, gender, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion/belief and sexual orientation.
What is the public sector equality duty?
Public bodies such as local government, the NHS and those carrying out public functions are under a duty to consider equality when making day to day decisions both in terms of service delivery and employment. This consists of a general duty and specific duties.
The General Duty requires public authorities to 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 Duty is underpinned by Specific Duties and require public authorities to:
- Publish one or more specific and measurable equality objective, at least every four years
- Publish information to demonstrate their compliance with the Equality Duty, at least annually
- Publish information in such a manner that the information is accessible to the public.