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Specific public sector equality duties now in force in Scotland

The general public sector equality duty is set out in the Equality Act 2010 and came into force on 5 April 2011. It requires all public authorities to consider equality in exercising their functions, including decision-making, designing internal and external policies and delivering service. It covers the following protected characteristics: age, disability, gender, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation, plus marriage/civil partnership with regard to discrimination in employment.

Public authorities are required, in the exercise of their functions, to have due regard to the need to:

  • eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment, victimisation and other prohibited conduct;
  • advance equality of opportunity between people who share a relevant protected characteristic and those who do not; and
  • foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.

The Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012 (the “Regulations”) came into force on 27 May 2012. The Regulations impose specific duties on certain public authorities in Scotland (listed in the Schedule to the Regulations). The purpose of the specific duties is to help those listed authorities in the performance of their general equality duty.

Under the Regulations, listed authorities are required to:

  • report on their efforts to make the equality duty integral to the exercise of their functions, referred to as mainstreaming the equality duty (every 2 years);
  • publish equality outcomes and report on progress (every 4 years);
  • assess and review policies and practices;
  • gather and use employee information;
  • publish gender pay gap information (every 2 years; for employers with 150 or more employees);
  • publish statements on equal pay and occupational segregation (every 4 years; for employers with 150 or more employees);
  • consider award criteria and conditions in relation to public procurement; and
  • publish the above information in a manner that is accessible to the public.

The first mainstreaming reports, equality outcomes, gender pay gap information and statements on equal pay are due by 30 April 2013.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published comprehensive guidance on the public sector equality duty in Scotland.

Similar specific equality duties for public bodies in England came into force last year in terms of the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011.

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