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The Equality Duties


The public sector equality duty came into force on 5 April 2011 and is supported by specific duties. These came into force in England on 10 September 2011.

Although the equality duty applies to England, Scotland and Wales, Scotland and Wales are able to set their own specific duties. The specific duties in Wales came in to force on 6 April 2011 and specific duties that will apply to Scottish public bodies are still being decided. The UCU Welsh Office have produced a workbook on the duties relating to Wales.

The equality duty does not apply to Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland has separate legislation.

In England the specific duties regulations will require institutions to publish:

  • one or more equality objectives by 6 April 2012, and thereafter at least every four years. Equality objectives must be specific and measurable.
  • information to demonstrate their compliance with the equality duty by 31 January 2012 and thereafter, at least annually.

The PSED is a legacy of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry where it was found that the police were institutionally racist. The Race Equality Duty was brought into force to address institutional racism and advance good relations and equality of opportunity. This Duty was later extended to Disability under the Disability Equality Duty in 2006 and to Sex under the Gender Equality Duty in 2007.

In 2010, under the Equality Act 2010, the Duty was extended to age, sexual orientation, transgender, marriage and civil partnership, religion or belief and pregnancy and maternity. The duty is known as the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) and it came into force in April 2011.

For action

We are encouraging all members to do the following:

• Encourage your MP to sign the Early Day Motion 220 on the PSED

• You can sign and circulate the petition to save the duty here

Tweet #savetheequalityduty

• Send in examples of where the PSED has created positive change to eqadmin@ucu.org.uk

Equality Impact Assessments

EIA's are mandatory in Scotland and Wales. Although they are no longer mandatory in England, UCU is committed to ensuring that all institutions conduct EIA's as the best way of fulfilling their legal obligation to demonstrate "due regard" to the equality duty.

This UCU motion was passed overwhelmingly at the 2010 TUC, and was welcomed by other trade unions as a positive and practical step in the campaign for equality and the campaign against cuts including redundancies and reorganisations:

Congress believes that:

Equality should be at the heart of all trade union collective bargaining and is an essential pre-requisite to protect rights to services within the public sector.

Congress notes that:

  1. public sector employers have a statutory duty to conduct Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs)
  2. EIAs have the potential to identify potential discriminatory effects of an employer's policies, procedures and practices
  3. many higher education institutions and further education colleges have not rigorously carried out EIAs
  4. nse of EIAs across the public sector is not widespread.

Congress recognises:

The weakness of the Equality Act and the lack of any detail on the new equality duties.

Congress calls upon the general council to:

  1. continue to raise awareness among the membership of the TUC as to the importance of EIAs
  2. encourage affiliates to gain official recognition of the role of Equality Officer in their collective bargaining with employers
  3. organise a campaign through affiliates within the public sector to conduct comprehensive and effective EIAs placing pressure on both government and employers
  4. urge affiliates to campaign to ensure the new specific duties within the Equality Act are more advantageous and effective than previous provisions and mount a vigorous campaign to remedy the equality deficit in trade union collective bargaining.

Related documents

 (.pdf) file type icon UCU Equality Duty Toolkit (.pdf) [161kb]

Public Sector Equality Duty in Wales

TUC Equality Duty Toolkit

The Public Sector Equality Duty in Northern Ireland

Draft PSED letter for branches / local associations

Equality Impact Assessments

Pro-forma for conducting equality impact assessments

Equality Challenge Unit resources and guides to conducting EIAs

Review of the PSED

On 15 May 2012, the government announced that it would review the Public Sector

Equality Duty (PSED) to establish whether the equality duty in the Equality Act 2010 is operating as intended.

The review focused on:

  1. how well understood is the PSED and guidance
  2. what are the costs and benefits of the PSED
  3. how organisations are managing legal risk and ensuring compliance with the PSED and;
  4. what changes, if any, would ensure better equality outcomes (e.g. legislative, administrative and/or enforcement changes).

There was not a full public consultation as part of this review - instead, the government will:

  • operate a thematic desk-based review
  • use evidence gathered from literature and case law
  • speak to a number of EU countries to seek information about mainstreaming equality
  • involve the voluntary and community sector, trade unions, lawyers from a range of public bodies and equality and diversity practitioners.

We have only highlighted a few areas of the review. See the full scope, including its terms of reference and membership of the steering group here.

In summary, UCU's concerns include:

  • the review is not only premature but is taking place within a short and ill-conceived consultation process.
  • the review should happen when it was originally planned in 2015 to allow the duty time to be implemented and monitored. This is because the sectors in which UCU organise are only now adjusting to the new equality duty and it will be almost impossible to gather evidence of impact in relation to the protected characteristics that have only recently been included.
  • the review is being overseen by a steering group that lacks any public service user or worker voice on it and no representation from the devolved administrations.
  • the terms of reference were only published at the end of November 2012 and the review concludes in June 2013.

Related documents

The campaign

UCU along with the wider trade union movement and equality organisations and groups have voiced concerns over the weakening of equality legislation.

Race on the Agenda (ROTA have been instrumental in the campaign to retain the duty.

For action

We are encouraging all members to do the following:

  • encourage your MP to sign the Early Day Motion 220 on the PSED
  • you can sign and circulate the petition to save the duty here
  • Tweet #savetheequalityduty
  • send in examples of where the PSED has created positive change to eqadmin@ucu.org.uk

Further reading to support retention of the PSED

UCU member services: Log in here to update your record online
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