Legal Background - The Public Sector Equality Duty
The origins of the duty are in the findings of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, which concluded that racial discrimination had become institutionalised in the culture, policy and practices of the Metropolitan Police. The Inquiry concluded that a new approach was called for, designed to foster proactive institutional change. This change in culture will help to identify and eliminate discrimination before it can happen and ensure that we understand and address the inequalities which affect our economic productivity and social cohesion.
The Equality Act 2010 brought together previous equality legislation into a single Act of Parliament. That Act includes a general duty to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations, which applies to public authorities and public functions. This public sector equality duty came into force in April 2011.
The 'Specific Duties'
Scottish Ministers have a power to make 'specific duties' to enable the better performance of the public sector equality duty. These came into force in May 2012.
Transparency and accountability lie at the heart of the specific duties. They require listed authorities to publish information which will demonstrate to equality communities how the public sector equality duty is being addressed. This information includes progress on making the duty integral to the authority's functions; progress on gathering and using employee information in order to better perform the duty; undertaking impact assessment and publishing the results; and setting equality outcomes which can be measured and reported against. The specific duties are forward looking - helping authorities to identify and focus on particular challenges.
In the absence of a requirement to publish this information, it would be difficult for communities to know what an authority was doing to meet the public sector equality duty. It might also be unclear to an authority what it needs to do to perform the duty well.
The Scottish Ministers' Duty
Scottish Ministers will also publish proposals by the end of December 2013 for activity to enable Scottish public authorities to better perform the public sector equality duty. These proposals will be informed by an understanding of how Scottish public authorities have approached the specific duties so far and whether any particular issues have emerged.
Scottish Ministers are committed to reviewing the Scottish specific duties within 5 years. Discussion with equality communities, public authorities and others will inform the review.
Email: Graeme Bryce, Graeme.Bryce@scotland.gsi.gov.uk
Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House