What is the public sector equality obligation?


Public authorities are required to think about the impact of their decisions or policies on people protected by the Equality Act. This is called the public sector equality duty. The duty is not mandatory for individuals or private organisations.

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You can challenge a public authority that hasn’t considered its public sector equality obligation.

Who is covered by the Equality Act?

Protected characteristics are what people who are covered by the Act refer to as.

These are the characteristics that are protected by the equality duty in public sector

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Civil and marital partnership
  • Maternity and pregnancy
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

The Equality Act also protects marriage and civil partnerships, but they are not subject to the public sector equality obligation.

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What is a public authority?

Public authority is an organization that carries out public functions and services, such as schools, the NHS, or the police.

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What are the responsibilities of public authorities to meet this obligation?

The Equality Act requires that public authorities must give due consideration to the needs of their citizens when they carry out their duties eliminate unlawful discrimination

Advance equality of opportunity for people who share a protected trait and those who do not

Encourage or foster good relationships between people who share a protected trait and those who don’t

Public authorities must consider the necessity to comply with the three requirements of the public sector equality obligation and have due regard. The courts will decide if a public agency has met the obligation.

What does it mean to advance equality of opportunity?

People who share certain protected characteristics, such as race or sexual orientation, might be at particular disadvantages or have special needs.

Public authorities are required to consider whether they can meet these needs and reduce inequalities by complying with the public sector equality duty. Public authorities can treat certain groups better than others by doing so.

  • According to the Equality Act, public authorities must consider the need to:
  • People who have a protected characteristic can be removed or reduced from disadvantages

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  • Meet the needs of persons with protected characteristics
    • Encourage people with protected characteristics and their participation in public life, and other activities