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The Equality Act 2010 came into force in October 2010, harmonising previous anti-discrimination legislation. The Act strengthens the Equality law in many ways by giving greater protection against discrimination.
Who has responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010?
The Act encourages public bodies to take ‘positive action’ to help some people with protected characteristics, who are disadvantaged or under-represented in some areas of life or have particular needs because they possess a protected characteristic, to overcome their disadvantages or to meet their particular needs.
We deliver a lot of services and we have a number of policies that apply to specific groups of our residents, visitors and staff with an aim of meeting their specific needs. We continue working with the peoples of Portsmouth in identifying and addressing issues of the disadvantaged and vulnerable members of our community.
The public sector equality duty is the title of the duty, and how it is referred to in the Equality Act. It consists of the general equality duty which is the overarching requirement or substance of the duty, and the specific duties which are intended to help performance of the general equality duty.
The purpose of the duty is to encourage certain public bodies, including local authorities, health, transport and education bodies, the police, the armed forces and the central government departments, to pro-actively consider different customer and workforce needs when they carry out their day-to-day functions, deliver services and shape policy.
The general equality duty covers the following protected characteristics: age (including children and young people), disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
The three aims of the duty apply to all protected characteristics apart from marriage and civil partnership, which is only relevant to the first aim (eliminating discrimination). Thus a body subject to the duty must have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination where it is prohibited under the Equality Act 2010 because of marriage or civil partnership in the context of employment.
The Public Sector Equality Duty has three aims:
The Equality Act explains that the second aim (advancing equality of opportunity) involves, in particular, having due regard to the need to:
The Home Office say that the duty “supports good decision making – it encourages public bodies to understand how different people will be affected by their activities, so that their policies and services are appropriate and accessible to all and meet different people’s needs.”
For more information, visit the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) website.
The EHRC has provided advice on the application of the equality duty to making fair financial decisions. This is particularly relevant now when public sector organisations have to make savings.
In addition to the general Equality Duty, the Equality Act 2010 gives the government the power to impose specific duties on certain public bodies to facilitate an efficient and effective compliance with the general Equality Duty.
The Parliament approved Specific Duties Regulations on 10 September 2011. The Specific Duties require public authorities such as local authorities to publish information to demonstrate their compliance with the general Equality Duty on an annual basis.
Public authorities must also prepare and publish one or more objectives to comply with the general Equality Duty every four years.
We comply with the above Specific Duties by regularly publishing our Equality impact assessments of our policies, projects, strategies and services on our website and by annually updating our equality objectives.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission
The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a Non Departmental Public Body, established under the Equality Act 2006. The Commission’s role is of a guardian of human rights and equality, and it has significant powers to enforce compliance with these by organisations and authorities to which they apply, including launching official inquiries and formal investigations, and taking legal action on behalf of individuals.
The Commission no longer supply a helpline but a new service is available called the Equality Advisory Support Service.
Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service)
Acas aims to improve organisations and working life through better employment relations. They help with employment relations by supplying up-to-date information, independent advice and high quality training, and working with employers and employees to solve problems and improve performance. If you need advice on any aspect of employment relations, you can visit Acas website for publications and helpline contact details.