The Equality Act came into force on 8 April 2010. The aim of the Act is to reform, harmonise and streamline discrimination law, and to strengthen the law to support progress on equality. The Act strengthens and extends protection from discrimination to cover nine ‘protected characteristics’: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex, and sexual orientation. It also extends protection against harassment across most of the protected characteristics, and extends protection to employees who have been harassed by third parties such as customers, suppliers or contractors to all the protected characteristics. The Act applies to employers and service providers, including universities.
The Act replaced all previous UK anti-discrimination legislation, including the Equal Pay Act 1970 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.
The Act was brought into force in stages. Most of the anti-discrimination and harassment provisions came into force on 1October 2010, with the exception of protection against age discrimination in services and public functions, which came into force in October 2012.
The public sector equality duty
The public sector equality duty came into force in April 2011. The duty replaced the previous equality duties for race, gender and disability, and it applies to all public bodies, including universities and colleges. It places a general duty on public authorities (including universities), when exercising their functions, to have due regard to the need to:
For the purposes of the public sector equality duty, there are eight protected characteristics (age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex and sexual orientation.) Marriage and civil partnership status is only covered by the first element of the duty (elimimate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and other unlawful conduct), and only in relation to employment.
The Scottish specific equality regulations
On 27th May 2012, a new set of statutory regulations (the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012) came into force, placing a further set of equality duties upon Scottish public sector organisations (including universities). These duties supplement the duties brought in by the Equality Act 2010, and are intended to provide a framework to help institutions comply with the general duty.
In summary, the regulations place duties on the University to:
There is a wealth of information available on the Equality Act 2010 and its implications for employers, service providers, staff, students and Universities.
The Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) has published a briefing note on the Act and how it will impact on Universities. This can be downloaded here. For detailed information on the Act, its implications for staff and students, and a timeline for implementation, please visit the website of the Equality Challenge Unit http://www.ecu.ac.uk/subjects/equality-act-2010
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has prepared non-statutory guidance and Codes of Practice on the Equality Act 2010 covering Employment and Services, Public Functions and Associations, and Education Providers. The guidance can be accessed at the following web link:
The EHRC's technical guidance on the public sector equality duty in Scotland is available here http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/legal-and-policy/equality-act/equality-act-codes-of-practice-and-technical-guidance/ This includes guidance on the application of the Scottish specific equality regulations.
The Scottish equality regulations are available here http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ssi/2012/162/contents/made
The ECU has published guidance on the Scottish specific equality duties at this link http://www.ecu.ac.uk/publications/the-public-sector-equality-duty-specific-duties-for-scotland
The Government Equalities Office (GEO) has also produced a number of summary guides on the Act. You can download the summary guides at this link http://www.equalities.gov.uk/equality_act_2010/equality_act_2010_what_do_i_n.aspx
The University is currently developing a set of institutional equality outcomes, which will be published on this website by 30 April 2013. An action plan to achieve these outcomes is currently under development.
In line with its Scottish equality duties, the University is also preparing to publish its first report on mainstreaming equality, also by 30 April 2013.
Our work on equality and diversity is overseen by the Equality Steering Group (ESG). More information on the ESG is available at this page.
If you have specific questions about the Act or our work to comply with the equality duties, you can get in touch with our Senior Policy and Governance Officer, Jill Stevenson, on 01786 466890. Alternatively, email firstname.lastname@example.org