Public sector Equality Duty

The public sector Equality Duty came into force across Great Britain on 5 April 2011

What is the public sector Equality Duty?

The public sector Equality Duty, at section 149 of the Equality Act, requires public bodies to consider all individuals when carrying out their day to day work – in shaping policy, in delivering services and in relation to their own employees.  It requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity, and foster good relations between different people when carrying out their activities.

The Equality Duty supports good decision making – it encourages public bodies to understand how different people will be affected by their activities, so that their policies and services are appropriate and accessible to all and meet different people’s needs.  By understanding the effect of their activities on different people, and how inclusive public services can support and open up people’s opportunities, public bodies can be more efficient and effective.  The Equality Duty therefore helps public bodies to deliver the Government’s overall objectives for public services.

Who does the Equality Duty apply to?

The Equality Duty applies across Great Britain to the public bodies listed in Schedule 19 to the act, and to any other organisation when it is carrying out a public function.

Consolidated list of the bodies in Schedule 19 (as amended)

Specific duties

The Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011 came into force on 10 September 2011.

The specific duties help public bodies perform the Equality Duty better. They do this by requiring public bodies to be transparent about how they are responding to the Equality Duty – requiring them to publish relevant, proportionate information showing compliance with the Equality Duty, and to set equality objectives.  The Government believes that public bodies should be accountable to their service users.  Publishing information about decision-making and the equality data which underpins those decisions will open public bodies up to informed public scrutiny.  It will give the public the information they need to challenge public bodies and hold them to account for their performance on equality.  Moreover, knowing that such information will be published will help to focus the minds of decision-makers on giving proper consideration to equality issues.

Guidance for public bodies

The Government Equalities Office has published two quick start guides to help public bodies understand the Equality Duty and the specific duties.

Quick Start Guide: Public sector Equality Duty

Quick Start Guide: Specific duties

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is the statutory body established to help eliminate discrimination and reduce inequality.  The Commission has published new non-statutory guidance on:


Section 153 of the act enables the Welsh and Scottish ministers to impose specific duties on certain Welsh and Scottish public bodies through secondary legislation. For Welsh and cross-border Welsh public bodies, specific duties have been finalised by the Welsh Assembly government and came into force on 6 April 2011.

The Equality Act 2010 (Statutory Duties) (Wales) Regulations 2011

For Scottish public bodies, the Scottish government launched a consultation on revised draft Regulations for specific duties on 9 September 2011.  The consultation closed on 25 November 2011.

More information from the Scottish Government 

Guidance on the Equality Duty specific to Wales and Scotland is available from the Equality and Human Rights Commission

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