How to ensure compliance with Equality Act 2010 and Public Sector Equality Duty

It is important for public sector bodies in the UK—and organizations receiving public funding—to understand what they need to do to ensure compliance with The Equality Act 2010 and the related Public Sector Equality Duty. These legal obligations extend to digital content and services, such as websites and documents.

The Equality Act 2010 and the Public Sector Equality Duty are interrelated components of UK legislation designed to promote equality/inclusivity and prevent discrimination. The Equality Act is the overarching framework, while the Public Sector Equality Duty imposes specific duties on public bodies and publicly funded organisations, to actively consider and promote equality in carrying out their functions.

Legal Obligations

The Equality Act 2010

  • Under the Equality Act 2010, organizations must not discriminate against individuals based on a set of ‘protected characteristics’. These protected characteristics include disability, race, age, sex, gender reassignment, religion or belief, and pregnancy and maternity. In relation to digital accessibility, this means:
  • Online/digital services must be accessible to all, ensuring that disabled people are not excluded from accessing your content or services.
  • Public bodies and organizations funded by public money must provide ‘reasonable adjustments’ to accommodate the needs of disabled people and others with protected characteristics. This could mean providing alternative formats for digital content or ensuring compatibility with the assistive technologies that disabled people use to access that content.

Public Sector Equality Duty

  • The Public Sector Equality Duty obliges public bodies and organizations receiving public money to consider how their policies and services impact disabled people and individuals with the protected characteristics outlined in the legislation.
  • They must actively work to remove discrimination within their organization and in relation to their digital publishing/services. For example, the NHS implements measures to ensure that its services are accessible to all patients, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
  • They must ensure that everyone has access to the same opportunities. An example would be the provision of childcare for families and individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • They must promote cooperation between different groups. An example would be to actively promote cooperation and good relations between different religious and ethnic groups.

Consequences of Non-Compliance with Equality Act 2010 and Public Sector Equality Duty

Non-compliance with the Equality Act 2010 and the Public Sector Equality Duty can have serious consequences:

  • Organizations breaking the law may face a lawsuit, hefty legal costs, and fines. For example, in 2021/2022, there were 195 discrimination cases where compensation was awarded. The maximum amount awarded was £228,000. Employers with over 200 employees who fail to publish pay differences between male and female workers can be fined up to £5,000.
  • Non-compliance, if called out, can also damage your reputation and lead to a loss of business or funding if you are a charity or working in the third sector.

The Importance of Regular WCAG 2 Accessibility Audits/Testing to Check for Compliance

What is a WCAG 2.2 Accessibility Audit?

It is a good practice to schedule regular accessibility audits of your digital content. Content and services should be checked against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.2 (WCAG 2.2). The WCAG 2 guidelines are the de facto set of guidelines governments use to check the accessibility of online content—and therefore compliance with the Equality Act 2010 and the Public Sector Equality Duty. The latest guidelines are WCAG 2.2.

An accessibility audit involves:

  • Evaluating websites/documents or digital services to identify any accessibility barriers. For blind or visually impaired visitors, these barriers could be images without alternative text or content that can’t be accessed with a keyboard. For visitors with cognitive impairments, it could be a confusing layout or overly complex navigation. For deaf or hearing impaired visitors, it could be videos that don’t have captions or an interface designed to be operated by voice-only.
  • Checking content and services against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG 2.2 is a set of guidelines designed to make online content more accessible for disabled people.
  • Reporting the findings and providing recommendations for improvements. The report identifies the most important issues, helping you to fix what needs to be fixed immediately and to plan and prioritize the remaining accessibility issues identified.

Publish An Accessibility Statement

All public sector organizations must have an Accessibility Statement on their website and mobile apps. It is part of the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018. It is a legal requirement.

According to GOV.UK’s Understanding accessibility requirements for public sector bodies:

“The accessibility regulations came into force for public sector bodies on 23 September 2018. They say you must make your website or mobile app more accessible by making it ‘perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust’. You need to include and update an accessibility statement on your website.” GOV.UK Understanding accessibility requirements for public sector bodies

What Should Be in an Accessibility Statement?

  • Include information about how compliant your website or app is with accessibility standards, specifically listing the WCAG 2.1 or WCAG 2.2 AA success criteria you meet and those you don’t.
  • Identify content that is not accessible and explain why.
  • Provide contact information and ensure users can report accessibility issues or request accessible alternatives.
    Enforcement Procedure: Provide information about the enforcement procedure if users are not satisfied with the response to their feedback.

Summary – how to dhere to The Equality Act 2010 and Public Sector Equality Duty

Accessibility is a legal requirement; public bodies must actively implement practices that comply. Digital content must be accessible to those with protected characteristics, and public bodies must publish an accessibility statement on their website and mobile apps.

How to get support

Jim Byrne can help you comply with your accessibility-related legal requirements, provide accessibility audits of your online content, and help you develop your accessibility statement. Digital accessibility is not just a legal obligation but a commitment to ensuring equal access for all.

Get in touch. Together, we can make the digital world accessible to everyone.

Equality Legislation Resources

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Accessibility Testing - feedback from clients



"We contacted Jim and his team to audit our old website in preparation for a brand refresh and website redesign, and to do an accessibility audit after the redesign process. From the beginning of our collaboration, Jim was thorough and clear with his findings and provided additional support and advice where we had questions or follow up. His expertise and passion for accessibility came through in each step of the process. We’re thankful to Jim and his team for their support in ensuring our new website can be accessible to all and for setting up our organisation to continue producing accessible content going forward.

Katie Northcott (she/her) – Communications Manager AMPLIFYCHANGE


University of Strathclyde ...

"Jim provided us with auditing and training services to help the University’s websites and applications meet new government regulations on digital accessibility. His reports were extremely thorough, and have provided an excellent basis for the University to offer better services to students, staff and the public. The training offered gave our staff an excellent insight into designing and developing for users with special requirements"

Ralph Mackenzie, Front-End Website Designer/Developer, University of Strathclyde


Sealed Envelope Ltd ...

"Jim at extremely short notice kindly provided us with an informal audit of one of our web-based demo randomisation systems. The audit was extremely comprehensive, clear and demonstrated his expertise in the area of accessible web design. From our initial contact Jim was professional, extremely helpful, attentive, responsive and a pleasure to work with. Jim is extremely knowledgeable and skilled and we would highly recommend him."

Peter Madden, Project Manager, Sealed Envelope Ltd

Get in touch for a chat about your accessibility needs

If you have been thinking about a new accessible website or getting your website checked to ensure it is accessible and compliant with equality legislation, get in touch. Jim Byrne has been working with non-profits, charities, voluntary and public sector organisations and social enterprises for over 20 years. He fully understands the needs of this sector.

Get in touch today to take advantage of unrivalled experience and skills relating to accessible website design and WCAG 2 auditing. A website designer based in Glasgow but with clients all over the UK.

See list of clients and what they said about working with Jim Byrne Accessible Design.