The Equality Act came into law in October 2010, and signalled that there will be a new Public Sector Equality Duty which will be in place for April 2011.
This replaces the public sector duties for Race, Disability and Gender and extends the public sector equality responsibility to 9 ‘Protected Characteristics’:
This duty has two parts, the general and specific duties. The general duty came in on 1st October.
A public authority must, in the exercise of its functions, have due regard to the need to:
In setting equality objectives DoH expect public bodies will still go through a similar process to the one they would have used to develop an equality scheme, i.e. they will still need to:
Proposals for publication of objectives can to be reported on through the usual planning and reporting mechanisms, such as business plans and annual reports. This should result in more action, and better outcomes, for disadvantaged groups.
Public bodies will be required to publish information on equality in their workplaces at least annually, which is likely to include information on the gender pay gap and the data that informed the selection of their areas of focus.
The specific duties will require listed public bodies to publish their equality outcome objectives, and the data and evidence they have on the eight protected characteristics, including the results of any engagement work that public bodies have undertaken with people from these groups.
Bodies will need to take reasonable steps to fill gaps in data where they cannot demonstrate how they are delivering on equality. This process will require public bodies to consider all the protected characteristics, to go through a rigorous assessment of evidence of need, and to publish the evidence and data sets they have drawn on.