The Equality Act 2010 replaces previous anti-discrimination laws with a single Act. It simplified the law, removing inconsistencies and making it easier for people to understand and comply with. It also strengthened the law in important ways, to help tackle discrimination and inequality. The public sector Equality Duty (section 149 of the Act) came into force on 5 April 2011. The Equality Duty applies to public bodies and others carrying out public functions. It supports good decision-making by ensuring public bodies consider how different people will be affected by their activities, helping them to deliver policies and services which are efficient and effective; accessible to all; and which meet different people’s needs.
The Equality Duty is supported by specific duties, set out in regulations which came into force on 10th September 2011. The specific duties require public bodies to publish relevant, proportionate information demonstrating their compliance with the Equality Duty; and to set themselves specific, measurable equality objectives.
Publishing relevant equality information will make public bodies transparent about their decision-making processes, and accountable to their service users, carers and staff. It will give the public the information they need to hold public bodies to account for their performance on equality.
In line with the Equality Duty of the Equality Act, as a public sector body, NHS Trusts will have the following requirements to:
- Publish information to show their compliance with the Equality Duty, at least annually, such as the Workforce Race Equality Standard Report, Workforce Equality Data Report; and
- Set and publish equality objectives, at least every four years.
The information will be published having due regard to the need to:
- Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and any other conduct prohibited by the Act;
- Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it: and
- Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it.
The protected characteristics covered by the Equality Duty are:
- Gender re-assignment
- Marriage and civil partnership (but only in respect of eliminating unlawful discrimination)
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Race – this includes ethnic or national origins, colour or nationality
- Religion or belief – this includes lack of belief
- Sexual orientation