Equality Act 2010
The Public Sector Equality Duty
The Public Sector Equality Duty was introduced under the Equality Act 2010 and came into force in April 2011. It supports good management practice and encourages public sector organisations, such as the Foundation Trust, to engage with diverse communities that are affected by their activities so that policies and services are appropriate and accessible to all and meet different people’s needs.
By understanding the effect of their activities on different groups, public sector organisations should be better placed to deliver policies and services that meet people’s needs. The Equality Duty therefore helps public bodies to deliver their overall objectives for public services.
The General and Specific Equality Duties
The Public Sector Equality Duty consists of the general duty and the specific duties.
The general duty has three aims. It requires public bodies to have due regard as part of their decision-making to the need to:
- Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Equality Act 2010;
- Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic (e.g. people of the same race) and between people who do not share it (e.g. between people who are disabled and people who are not disabled);
- Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and between people who do not share it.
The specific duties were set out in secondary legislation to accompany the Equality Act 2010 and became law on 9 September 2011.
The specific duties provide a framework to help public bodies meet the general duty. Most public bodies, including the Foundation Trust, subject to the general duty are also subject to the specific duties.
The specific duties require public bodies to:
- Publish information to show their compliance with the Equality Duty by 31 January 2012 and at least annually thereafter. This information must include information relating to employees (for organisations, like the Foundation Trust, with at least 150 employees) and information relating to people who are affected by the organisation’s policies and practices (such as patients);
- Set and publish one or more specific and measurable equality objectives by 6 April 2012.
The term ‘protected characteristics’ was introduced by the Equality Act 2010 and replaces the previous, commonly used term of “equality strands”. A person’s protected characteristics are aspects of their personal identity that have legal protection under the Equality Act. The following are the protected characteristics included in the Equality Act:
- Gender reassignment
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief – this includes lack of belief
- Sexual orientation.
Protection also applies to marriage and civil partnership, but only in respect of the requirement to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination.
Human Rights Act 1998
The Human Rights Act 1998 is the legislation which protects human rights in the UK through specific “articles” which go beyond the nine protected characteristics to outlaw discrimination on all grounds.
As a public authority the Trust must ensure that none of our policies, procedures or strategies infringe the human rights of staff or patients. In practice this means treating individuals with fairness, respect, equality, dignity and autonomy whilst also safeguarding the rights of the wider community when developing policies and procedures and carrying out our functions.
Mental Capacity Act 2005
The Mental Capacity Act 2005 is the legislation which provides the legal framework for acting and making decisions on behalf of individuals who lack the mental capacity to make particular decisions (or take particular actions) for themselves.
As a provider of healthcare the Trust must ensure that the provisions of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 are followed in all cases where individuals over 16 do (or may) lack capacity to make some or all decisions for themselves.
The Government Equalities Office website includes useful information about the Equality Act. The 'Equality Act 2010: What do I need to know?'web page contains quick start guides to help people understand the key measures.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s website includes guidance and good practice to help you understand and use Equality Act law. There is guidance for employers, workers, service users and service providers.
The ACAS website includes a quick start guide for employers on the Equality Act.
The Equality Act text is available from the Office of Public Sector Information’s (OPSI) website.