The Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011, which aim  to allow public authorities, including colleges, universities and other education institutions, to better perform the general equality duty, were made on 9 September and came into force on 10 September 2011. Institutions should ensure that their equality and diversity policies reflect the requirements of the duties.

Context

The general equality duty requires education institutions, when exercising their functions, to have due regard to the need to:

  1. eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under the Equality Act 2010;
  2. advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it; and
  3. foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.

The Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011

Information requirement

The Regulations require education institutions to publish information demonstrating compliance with the general equality duty by 31 January 2012 (schools have until 6 April 2012) and at least annually thereafter. This information must include information relating to those who share a protected characteristic who are employees (for institutions with 150 or more employees)and others affected by an institution's policies and procedures, such as students. The information must be published so that it is accessible to the public, though it may be published within another published document.

Objective(s) requirement

Institutions are also required to prepare and publish one or more specific and measurable equality objective(s) for achieving the aims set out in the general equality duty by 6 April 2012 and at least every four years thereafter. Again, the objective(s) must accessible to the public, and may be included within another published document.

Purpose

The specific duties endeavour to make public bodies, and therefore education institutions, transparent and open to public scrutiny about how they are responding to the Equality Duty. Requiring them to publish certain information and to set equality objectives will, the government hopes, allow the public to challenge public bodies and hold them to account for their performance on equality and will help ensure that decision-makers give appropriate consideration to equality issues.

Click here to view the Regulations.

Scotland In Scotland, the public sector equality duty came into force on 5 April 2011and ministers are currently consulting on the draft regulations containing the specific duties. The consultation will run until 25 November 2011. Click here to view details of the proposals.

ECU has published this initial research report, though the research project is ongoing until August 2012:

Mainstreaming: equality at the heart of further and higher education

Wales

The  Specific Equality Duties came into force on 6 April 2011. Click here to view the Regulations.

ECU has created a guidance for Welsh HEIs - Click here to view.

Update - Codes of Practice

The Code of Practice on Further and Higher Education will hopefully be laid by the Government Equalities Office in late Autumn 2011, subject to parliamentary processes. The draft Code can be accessed by clicking here.

The Code of Practice for Schools has completed its consultation period and will be laid by April 2012. There are two separate versions, one for England and Wales and one for Scotland. Both can be seen by clicking here.

The Code of Practice for the Public Sector Equality Duty will be available for consultation in Autumn 2011.