International approaches to advance equality: insights from six countries

International research publication including insight from six countries on ways to advance equality.

Glossary of Equality Terms Used

Affirmative Action: A term, and approach, not often used in the UK. Affirmative Action is a policy or programme that aims to increase the representation of historically disadvantaged groups in areas such as employment, education, and business. It is designed to address past and current discrimination by providing opportunities and preferential treatment to individuals from underrepresented backgrounds. Affirmative action policies can include measures such as quotas and targeted recruitment efforts.

Designated Employer: The Employment Equity Act of South Africa, 1988, classifies employers into three categories: those with 50 or more employees, those with less than 50 employees but who exceed a turnover of a certain threshold, and public bodies. These employers must create an employment equity plan, undertake equitable representation, and pay gap assessments, set goals, and submit annual employment equity reports to the Commission on Employment Equity (CEE). This ensures employment equity for all South African employees and governmental organisations.

Equality: The state of being equal, especially in status, rights, opportunities or outcomes. This means every individual having an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents regardless of characteristics such as their age, race, where they live and come from or socio-economic background etc.[20]

Equalities: Used as shorthand for the experiences of groups that need to be borne in mind when thinking about compliance with the Equality Act 2010 (see Protected Characteristics. Likely to have originated as a contraction of ‘equal opportunities’.[21]

Equality Impact Assessment: An Equality Impact Assessment is a systematic process used to evaluate the potential effects of policies, practices, or decisions on different groups of people. It aims to ensure that these policies, practices, or decisions do not discriminate against any group and promote equality and fairness. The assessment considers factors such as age, gender, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation, and socio-economic background to identify any potential inequalities that may arise. By conducting an Equality Impact Assessment, organisations can make informed decisions that prioritise inclusivity. Often abbreviated to ‘EQIA’ or ‘EIA

Equity: The quality of being fair and impartial; provision proportionate to need. Please note that there are also technical uses of the term in law and finance, but it is not generally a term used in Scots law.[22]

Human Rights: ‘The basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person, from birth until death, protected by the Human Rights Act 1998. The Scottish Government is committed to promoting and protecting human rights, and to legislating to do so, via a new Human Rights Bill.’[23]

Immigrant: Individuals who move to a different country with the intention of settling there permanently. They often leave their home countries in search of better economic opportunities, safety, or to escape persecution. Immigrants contribute to the cultural, social, and economic fabric of their host countries by bringing diverse perspectives, skills, and talents. However, they may also face challenges such as language barriers, discrimination, and difficulties adapting to a new culture.

Inclusion: ‘Providing support to allow or facilitate equal access to specific opportunities, particularly for those who might otherwise be excluded or marginalised. Often used to refer to considering the needs of groups experiencing disadvantage as a principle or practice.’[24]

Inequality: ‘The systematic differences that we observe between groups in society, which result in a gap in autonomy, process or outcomes between groups of people.’[25]

Intersectionality: Intersectionality is the recognition that individuals can experience multiple forms of discrimination or privilege based on their intersecting social identities, such as race, gender, sexuality, disability, and class. Scottish Government defines intersectionality as ‘A term used to describe how race, class, disability, and other characteristics ‘intersect’ with one another and overlap. It recognises that having a combination of characteristics - for example being an older man with low wealth, a younger Muslim woman, or a disabled transgender person – may result in distinct, and frequently compound, inequality.’[26]

Intersectional analysis: Intersectional Analysis helps us recognise and dismantle systems of oppression that disproportionately affect certain groups, leading to a more comprehensive understanding of inequality and a more effective pursuit of social change.

Mainstreaming: Mainstreaming is a method to addressing systemic inequalities and fostering equal opportunities for all individuals, regardless of their background or characteristics. It requires a whole system approach designed to consider equality impact in decision-making. Scottish Government defines mainstreaming as ‘The process of embedding equality, inclusion and human rights considerations and practices in the course of all that we do when exercising public functions’.

Oversight: The duty of oversight in equality legislation refers to the responsibility of ensuring that all individuals and groups are treated fairly and without discrimination. This includes monitoring and reviewing policies, practices, and procedures to ensure they align with the principles of equality. Oversight also involves investigating complaints of discrimination, promoting awareness, and understanding of equality rights, and providing guidance and support to individuals and organisations to ensure compliance with the legislation. It plays a crucial role in upholding the values of equality, inclusivity, and social justice within society.

Positive Action: This involves actively identifying and addressing barriers that may prevent certain groups from fully participating in society. For example, implementing positive action policies can help ensure equal access to education, employment, and housing opportunities. By taking these proactive measures, societies can create a more equitable and inclusive environment for all individuals, regardless of their background or origin.

Protected Characteristics: The grounds upon which discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 is unlawful. The nine characteristics are: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. Note that it is ‘sex’, not ‘gender’, which is the characteristic that is protected in law.[27] Other countries have broader, and narrower, sets of protected characteristics or groups protected by equality and discrimination legislation.

Redress: The duty to make redress in equality legislation is a principle that upholds the rights of individuals to be treated fairly and equally. Redress in equality legislation serves as a deterrent against future acts of discrimination as it holds organisations and individuals accountable for their actions.

Scrutiny: Scrutiny is the process of careful examination or inquiry and refers to the oversight function. It is a core component of governance frameworks and can refer to the checks and balances that are put in place by Boards to ensure high quality decision-making. In the context of equality work, scrutiny refers to the oversight provided by Boards, Regulators, and others to ensure performance against the requirements of legislation and progress towards achieving equality objectives and addressing persistent inequalities.

Scottish Specific Duties (SSDs): A set of legal obligations created by secondary legislation in the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012, that require public authorities in Scotland to promote equality and tackle discrimination.

Vulnerable Groups: Scottish Government defines vulnerable groups as specific groups of people who are ‘vulnerable to’ a particular risk.’[28]



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