Public Sector Equality Duty Implementation of Scottish Specific Duties: Views from public authorities

This explored Scottish public authorities’ experiences in approaching their Public Sector Equality Duties. This report presents views about what authorities have learnt from their implementation of the Scottish specific duties.

The Scottish Government commissioned the research in September 2013, to help inform Scottish Ministers as they prepare to meet their duty to publish proposals for activity to enable the better performance of the Public Sector Equality Duty.

Chapter 5 Conclusions


5.1 This chapter sets out the key findings from this research, both in relation to the production of equality outcomes and the production of employee information, equal pay and pay gap information. It also outlines a series of reflections based on the experiences of public authorities working to meet the specific duties in relation to equality outcomes and employee information.

Key findings - equality outcomes

5.2 This section sets out our key findings in relation to authorities' experiences of developing equality outcomes.

Process of development

5.3 While most larger authorities employed an individual or individuals with clear responsibility for equality, many smaller organisations had no dedicated equality lead in place. A small number of these organisations felt that they lacked skills, expertise and capacity around equality, and a small minority were not aware until relatively late on that they were covered by the specific duties.

5.4 The production of equality outcomes was almost always a joint effort, involving equality leads, senior management across services, and boards or governing committees. Sometimes existing internal equality forums or steering groups led the process (or new ones were set up). These often provided strong leadership and senior commitment. Senior level buy-in was seen as a key factor in enabling the process of developing equality outcomes.

5.5 Normally, authorities followed a broadly similar process to developing equality outcomes. Most began with evidence gathering and mapping exercises; identified broad priorities for action; and consulted with internal and external stakeholders. Many said that this was an "iterative" process, involving many different stages and multiple levels of consultation.

5.6 Some - particularly the larger authorities - had undertaken significant work to align their equality outcomes with existing outcomes, strategies or plans and to embed the equality outcomes across the organisation.

Use of evidence

5.7 Most authorities used both quantitative and qualitative information - from national and local sources - to inform their equality outcomes. Most felt that there were gaps in both local and national evidence, in relation to the timing of publication of statistics and the protected characteristics covered. Overall, access to relevant and robust evidence was identified as a key barrier to developing effective equality outcomes, particularly in identifying inequalities and establishing baselines.

5.8 Some NDPBs and specialist organisations found it difficult to gather information and evidence that was relevant to their organisation, or for their specific geographic area of operation. As a result there was a reliance on anecdotal, national or broader sources of evidence, to try to fill gaps in evidence.

5.9 There were differing opinions around the use of anecdotal or qualitative evidence. While many strongly relied on anecdotal evidence, some NHS Boards felt that the steer from the EHRC that outcomes should be evidence based pointed them in the direction of harder and more quantitative evidence. There was some concern from NHS Boards that valuable qualitative or anecdotal evidence could not be used - which may encourage a focus on known inequalities rather than those which are harder to evidence and understand.


5.10 Almost all authorities undertook some form of consultation on their equality outcomes. A minority were very aware of "consultation fatigue" and so either used evidence from existing consultation, or co-ordinated their engagement activity with community planning partners.

5.11 A number of authorities (particularly in rural areas) found it difficult to engage with people with certain protected characteristics, due to a lack of existing networks and forums. Many worked jointly with others to reach groups that their organisation found hard to engage with, building on trusted organisations at a local and national level.

5.12 Most authorities undertook a mix of engagement targeted specifically at groups of people who share a protected characteristic, and engagement with the general public more widely. Authorities used a wide range of methods, including drawing on existing community engagement structures such as Public Partnership Forums (NHS Boards) and Citizens Panels (local authorities and other community planning partners), as well as local equality networks and groups.

5.13 Education bodies tended to focus their consultation on their current students and staff.

5.14 A minority of authorities stressed the need to balance consultation with other evidence - highlighting issues such as how representative those involved were of wider communities, and the potential for lobbying on key issues.

Working with others

5.15 Some authorities (largely local authorities and NHS Boards) worked jointly at a local level within the community planning partnership - particularly around sharing evidence and co-ordinating consultation. This was seen as beneficial, and a good way to share resources. In one case, community planning partners produced joint outcomes.

5.16 Informal collaborative working also took place, for example between neighbouring local authorities; between similar NHS Boards; between the national park authorities; and between colleges and universities. Again, this was seen as very helpful, in sharing practice and ideas about developing equality outcomes.

5.17 National networks - such as the Scottish Council's Equality Network, the NDPB Equality Forum and the Public Sector Employees Diversity Network - were seen as very useful for sharing information and best practice.

Success factors

5.18 Authorities consistently identified four main success factors, which helped them to develop effective outcomes:

  • senior level buy-in and support;
  • commitment and positive attitudes of staff;
  • effective engagement and consultation processes; and
  • sharing practice with other organisations - both locally and nationally.

Key barriers

5.19 The key barriers to developing equality outcomes included:

  • lack of a robust evidence base;
  • engaging with a representative group of people;
  • lack of clear guidance;
  • challenges measuring progress and benchmarking;
  • alignment with existing organisational priorities; and
  • timing - particularly for organisations going through mergers in 2013.


5.20 Many authorities were not able to quantify the broad resources dedicated to producing equality outcomes. Most, however, felt that the process was very resource intensive. Most local authorities and NHS Boards which commented said that it took the equivalent of three to eight months on a full time basis. A minority of small organisations said that it just took a small amount of time - such as half a day (particularly those who were linked to other authorities). Those in the 'other bodies' category varied significantly - but for some it was the equivalent of eight months full time, plus contribution of other staff time.


5.21 Many felt that it was too early to identify changes as a result of producing equality outcomes. Some felt that there was increased awareness of equalities; enhanced confidence around equality issues; more commitment to action to address inequalities; and better alignment of equalities within the wider strategic objectives of the organisation.

5.22 In the longer term, authorities hoped that the equality outcomes would promote equality; encourage practical steps to address inequalities; make equality work more tangible; and encourage integration of equality as normal practice.

Key findings - employee information, gender pay gap and equal pay

5.23 This section summarises the key findings in relation to experiences of producing information on employee characteristics, the gender pay gap and equal pay.

Process of development

5.24 In most cases, the production of employee information was led by an individual in human resources, with support from a policy colleague (usually the equalities lead). In some small organisations, policy officers led on the production of employee information. Local authorities generally led for Licensing Boards and education authorities.

5.25 NHS Boards took a co-ordinated approach to producing employee information, with a national group which provided templates and support. Some local authorities, colleges and universities shared practice through networks and informal joint working.

5.26 Generally, organisations already held information about the protected characteristics of their employees - particularly on age and sex. Most mapped what they had and identified gaps. Almost all found that they needed to adapt what they had, or collect new information. Across all types of authority, the most difficult areas to produce employee information for were sexual orientation, gender reassignment and pregnancy and maternity.

5.27 Most authorities worked to address gaps in staff composition information to enable publication of this information in full. However, it was more challenging to collect information on recruitment, development and retention retrospectively. Some simply had to note these gaps and commit to addressing these in the future.

5.28 Information on the development of employees was often held by different teams (in different formats) and some authorities (particularly larger authorities) had to do a lot of manipulation of the data to get it into a consistent and comparable format.

5.29 Gathering and producing information on retention was particularly difficult for the largest and smallest authorities. Large organisations with significant staff turnover found it difficult to keep track of staff who were leaving, while organisations with small turnovers could not report on the small numbers involved.

5.30 Where equal pay, pay gap and occupational segregation information had not been previously produced in the format required, this resulted in considerable work. Authorities had to devise new processes to produce this information in a meaningful way. This often involved staff at senior levels.


5.31 Authorities found it difficult to estimate the resources involved in producing employee information - but most felt that it involved less resources than developing equality outcomes. However, the level of resources involved was very dependent on the systems organisations had in place already. If good systems were in place it could take just a few days - but some large authorities indicated that it took them weeks or months of staff time to gather, interpret, analyse and produce the information required. While most recognised the benefits of producing and using the employee information, a minority questioned the benefits of this when compared to the resources invested.

Success factors

5.32 Organisations which had invested in gathering employee information in previous years, and in software which enabled them to analyse this quickly and effectively found it much easier to meet their duties. Software made the analysis process much quicker, and some felt they could not have managed without this.

5.33 Authorities which already collected some employee information also found it easier to meet their duties. Many experienced little resistance to gathering additional employee information - suggesting that staff were familiar with the process, and confident that information provided would be treated appropriately.

5.34 Other key success factors included high level support from senior management, meaning the agenda was taken seriously, and sharing practice and experience between authorities.


5.35 The most commonly mentioned barrier was the challenge of interpreting the written guidance produced by the EHRC. However, authorities also experienced specific problems with gathering and analysing data, including:

  • low staff response rates to requests for information on some protected characteristics;
  • lack of technology to analyse data - meaning that some or all data required to be analysed manually; and
  • challenges agreeing meaningful categories for analysis of data - particularly around occupational segregation information.

5.36 A small minority of large authorities reported challenges in joint work and building understanding between HR and equality colleagues.


5.37 Only a minority of authorities had seen immediate changes as a result of publishing employee information. Early changes included greater awareness of equality; greater understanding of workforce diversity; enhanced commitment to improve the quality of data; some practical actions to address inequalities; and more confidence in talking about employee needs and experiences.

5.38 Many indicated that publication in itself was unlikely to lead to significant change - there was a need to take action to address the inequalities identified within their workforce. Longer term, authorities felt that they would become better at understanding the data; enhance their reputation as an employer; and contribute to tackling inequality in the workplace.

Future support needs

5.39 Authorities identified clear, common priorities for support in the future. All types of authority would like to see three main types of support - guidance, feedback and leadership.

5.40 Firstly, almost all authorities stressed the need for practical guidance on meeting the specific duties. Authorities suggested that this should set out the expectations of smaller or specialist authorities and provide templates and practice examples. Many (particularly organisations less used to an outcomes focused approach) felt that it should start from the basics of what an outcome is, and that it should be written in plain English.

5.41 Secondly, almost all authorities reported a clear need for constructive feedback on their publications (both equality outcomes and employee information). It was felt that feedback on an individual basis would:

  • help to retain motivation and provide recognition of the investment that authorities made in producing these documents; and
  • support organisations in considering how to move forward from publication to taking action.

5.42 There was a strong and consistent call for feedback to focus on enabling and supportive assistance, rather than a 'tick box' approach.

5.43 Thirdly, most authorities suggested that more visible and proactive leadership at a national level would help to encourage an ongoing focus on this agenda. A range of practical suggestions were made about how this leadership would be manifested - including provision of funding; key points of contact for support; and integration of equality across all areas of Scottish Government work. Some felt that there was a need for better national co-ordination in relation to roles and responsibilities around support.

5.44 In addition, a number of other themes emerged. Authorities of all types highlighted the need for enhanced access to timely, robust evidence. Many felt that appropriate local information from the 2011 Census was not available to inform equality outcomes.

5.45 Organisations (particularly those in the 'other bodies' category) highlighted the value of support to public sector networks in sharing practice, and some felt that more support, including funding and a presence by EHRC or Scottish Government staff, could be provided to these networks.

5.46 Finally, a small number of authorities highlighted the need for stability and consistency, to allow the duties to bed in and build skills and confidence.


Responsibility to meet the specific duties

5.47 The authorities are all very different in scale and scope. Both large and small organisations found that they invested significant resources in producing equality outcomes and employee, pay gap and equal pay information. However, some faced specific challenges due to their size or due to their very close relationship to other listed authorities. It may be worth considering:

Whether Licensing Boards, education authorities, Joint Boards and local authorities could be required to publish employee information and equality outcomes jointly - rather than separately.

Whether small organisations with fewer than a specific number of staff (such as 20) should be exempt from the requirement to publish employee information - as there are concerns that this could ever be produced in a way which meets data protection.

Whether medium sized organisations with fewer than a specific number of staff (such as 50 or 100) should be exempt from the requirement to publish employee information for recruitment, development and retention - as the small numbers involved also mean there could be concerns about data protection.

5.48 It may be appropriate to encourage (or require) these organisations to assess the trends within their organisation internally, and take action to address inequalities, rather than to publish the information.

Feedback to listed authorities

5.49 There is strong demand for authorities to receive feedback on their performance in relation to equality outcomes and employee information. This applies across all types and sizes of authority. Organisations wish to hear whether they are compliant, but also - more importantly - how well they have done and how they could improve. There is a need to consider how best to provide individualised feedback to authorities, so that they can understand whether they have met the duties effectively.

5.50 This needs to be done in a supportive manner, to build confidence and maintain motivation to strengthen the response to the specific duties. In particular, most small authorities do not have the same equalities expertise as larger authorities, and some felt slightly exposed. It may be appropriate to consider a proportionate response to feedback, with larger organisations being encouraged to stretch slightly more than the smaller or less experienced authorities.

Guidance on the Duties

5.51 There is a clear demand for additional practical and detailed guidance on meeting the specific duties. This should be written in plain English; include examples that are considered to be good practice; and potentially include (optional) templates for producing employee information and equality outcomes. It should cover not only how authorities meet the duties, but how they take action on their findings - particularly in relation to employee information. It could also provide guidance on how to work jointly at a local level, to integrate equality outcomes into community planning Single Outcome Agreements - over the longer term.

Scottish Government role

5.52 There is potentially a role for the Scottish Government in supporting and motivating authorities to meet the specific duties effectively. This could include practical steps such as:

  • A clear, high profile statement from the Scottish Government about the importance of meeting the specific duties - This would recognise the significant work which authorities have done so far, and encourage ongoing action around equality outcomes and enhancing equality and diversity in the workplace. It would be motivational and supportive, encouraging authorities to build on the work already undertaken. This could take the form of a joint statement with other key partners nationally. It could also reassure authorities about the long term commitment to the current approach, thereby encouraging investment in strengthening equality outcomes and employee information over time.
  • Including equality outcomes in other outcomes, targets and plans at national level - This would further embed the commitment to equality across all areas of work. For example, the inclusion of equality related targets in NHS HEAT targets was seen as a way of emphasising and placing a clear focus on the agenda. This approach may also work for other services working to national targets and outcomes.
  • Producing practical guidance - As discussed earlier, this guidance would be practical and simple, and would demonstrate the importance and rationale for meeting the duties. This could include a clear statement on the roles of the Scottish Government and the EHRC (and potentially others) in relation to the provision of support, training and guidance to assist public authorities to meet the duties. It could also provide specific advice about access to robust evidence to inform work on equalities.
  • Providing funding to support listed authorities - This could support organisations to build on the work already done, to ensure that they are able to take action on the inequalities they have identified. The provision of funding could also help to strengthen the focus on this agenda.

Sharing good practice

5.53 Authorities found that sharing experiences and practice was very helpful. There may be opportunities to enhance the sharing of good practice. Guidance could emphasise the range of networks available and how to access these. There may be opportunities to provide funding to some networks to perform a supportive role around key areas. It may also be useful to explore the creation of a national multi-sector group to share experience and good practice around meeting the specific duties.


Email: Alison Stout

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