With the public sector equality duty - brought into life by section 149 Equality Act 2010 – reaching its first anniversary this Easter, public sector organisations should have complied with their publication duties in relation to equality objectives, as set out in secondary legislation, by 6 April 2012.
Broadly, section 149 requires public authorities to have due regard to the need to:
- eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct prohibited by the Act;
- advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and those who do not; and
- foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and those who do not.
A “protected characteristic” for these purposes is age, disability, gender, race, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, religion or belief, or sexual orientation.
To further the fulfilment of this duty, Parliament enacted the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011, which requires NHS bodies to prepare and publish, by no later than 6 April 2012 and then at a maximum of four-yearly intervals, one or more objectives which it believes should be achieved in order to accomplish any of the three things set out in the bullet points above.
The objectives must be “specific and measurable” and the information published should be accessible to the public.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has produced guidance for public sector organisations to assist in the implementation of the section 149 duty, available at: EHRC - Guidance on the equality duty. Information about the Equality Delivery System designed to improve equality performance within the NHS and embed equality into its mainstream business can be found on the NHS Employers’ website at: The NHS Equality Delivery System (EDS).