The public sector equality duty is designed to ensure that those carrying out public functions (including public authorities) consider how they can contribute to and help foster a more equal society. They have a duty to promote good relations between different groups and to advocate and advance equality.
The public sector equality duty covers a list of ‘protected characteristics’:
The duty also covers marriage and civil partnerships, in relation to eliminating unlawful employment discrimination.
Organisations must take into account a disabled person’s impairment and ensure that that impairment is not a barrier to equal treatment. Organisations need to be pro-active i.e. not wait to react if someone complains about an issue or requests equal access or treatment. An example would be a local authority making their website accessible to disabled people and providing alternative formats available by default.
The public sector equality duty is set out in the Equality Act 2010 and referred to as the ‘general equality duty’.
The general equality duty has three elements:
A public authority must take account of these three needs to comply with the general equality duty.
The list includes health boards, education authorities, further and higher education authorities, local authorities, the police, fire and rescue authorities and Scottish Ministers. There is a full list of those subject to the act online.
The duty covers public authorities when carrying out their public functions as service providers, as policy makers and as employers and also covers services and functions which are contracted out.
When private and voluntary sector organisations are carrying out a ‘public function’ they are also covered by the duty. A public function’ is one defined as such by the Human Rights Act 1998.
In order to meet the general duty, a public authority must:
Secondary legislation outlining specific duties came into force on 27 May 2012.
Each listed authority is required to:
Many of the organisations subject to the act have websites and documents that are not accessible to disabled people. If a disabled person cannot access information on a website managed by a public authority and no alternatives are offered that would be considered as unequal treatment under the Equality Act 2010 .
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