The Government has announced that it is to review the public sector equality duty, a mere year after its inception, to establish whether it is indeed the best way to ensure public bodies, consider the impact of their decisions on different groups.
The review, anticipated to conclude by April 2013, is included in a package of measures announced as part of the so-called “Red Tape Challenge”, the Government’s programme to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy.
In a written ministerial statement, Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, Theresa May, said:
“This Government has a strong commitment to equality of opportunity. But we also have a strong desire to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy where it exists and consider alternatives to legislation. We committed last year to assess the effectiveness of the PSED specific duties. We have decided to bring forward that review and extend it to include both the general and specific duties to establish whether the duty is operating as intended.”
In consequence, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, whose role and value for money will also come under scrutiny in the review, has announced that it will now be unable to produce a statutory code of practice on the public sector equality duty, as planned, such codes requiring executive backing.
As production of a statutory code is no longer an option, the Commission feels that the best solution is to issue the draft code as a non-statutory code instead. As a non-statutory code, the guidance will still provide a formal, authoritative, and comprehensive legal interpretation of the duty and will make it clear what the requirements of the legislation are.
The draft non-statutory code will be published shortly for review and feedback.