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Equality legislation

Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act,external website 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.

General duty

The general duty came into force on the 5 April 2011 and requires public authorities to have due regard to the need to:
  • Eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited
  • Advance equality of opportunity, and foster good relations between, persons who share a ‘relevant protected characteristic’ and persons who don’t.
  • The general duty is underpinned by specific duties that help public bodies meet the general duty.

Specific duties

The purpose of the specific duties is to help public authorities comply with the general duty by improving the focus and transparency of their activity. The specific duties require public authorities to:
  • Publish one or more specific and measurable equality objective, at least every four years, by April 2012
  • Publish information to demonstrate their compliance with the Equality Duty, at least annually by January 2012
  • Publish information in such a manner that the information is accessible to the public.
To see how the council is meeting its duties under the Equality Act see delivering equality

Useful information

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has guidanceexternal website to help explain the Act and provide practical examples on how the law has changed. Guidance is available for employers, workers, service providers, service users and education providers.

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