The Equality Act received Royal Assent on 8 April 2010. The Act (which applies to England, Wales and Scotland but not to Northern Ireland) consolidates all the previous anti-discrimination laws and reconciles most of the differences between them. Most of the Act’s provisions came into force on 1 October 2010.
All anti-discrimination legislation applies to public-sector organisations in the same way as it does to private-sector employers. However, there is an additional statutory duty on public authorities that does not apply elsewhere, known as the Equality Duty.
The Public Sector Equality Duty consists of a general duty, with three main aims (set out in s.149 of the Equality Act 2010) and specific duties (set out in secondary legislation to accompany the Equality Act 2010). The three main aims of the general duty are the following.
Eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under the Equality Act.
Advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.
Foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.
The Act defines a protected characteristic as:
marriage and civil partnership
pregnancy and maternity
race — this includes ethnic or national origins, colour and nationality
religion or belief
The second and third limbs of the general equality duty do not apply to the protected characteristic of marriage and civil partnership.
The specific duties are designed to help public bodies with the better performance of the general duty. They cover:
requirements for the publication of information demonstrating compliance with the Equality Duty
requirements to prepare and publish one or more equality objectives.
The general duty commenced on 5 April 2011.
The Regulations implementing the specific duties came into effect on 10 September 2011. The obligations under these Regulations were consolidated with new statutory gender pay gap reporting requirements on 31 March 2017. See Gender Pay Gap Reporting.