Skip to main content
Insight

Public equality duty review published

The Government Equalities Office has this afternoon published a review of the Public Sector Equality Duty.  This duty affects all public bodies and private bodies carrying out public functions.  It The Government Equalities Office has this afternoon published a review of the Public Sector Equality Duty.  This duty affects all public bodies and private bodies carrying out public functions.  It also tends to affect pure private bodies contracting with public bodies which may be required to carry out various tasks such as equality monitoring as part of their contractual obligations to manufacture uniforms, collect refuse or give advice for example.  Large parts of the economy are therefore affected. 

The duty is made up of a general duty which is underpinned by specific duties for certain public bodies set out in secondary legislation.  Under the general duty, public bodies must when carrying out their functions have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations.  The review was carried out under the Government's red-tape challenge and whilst it stops short of demanding legislative change, unsurprisingly makes a number of comments about the unfortunate bureaucracy which has grown up around the duty.  The review criticises "useless bureaucratic practices which do nothing for equality" but which divert scarce resources from front-line services and which act as a barrier to small businesses and charities which wish to contract with the public sector. 

The review found that "Despite the current financial climate, we have not found any public bodies that have sought to monetise either the costs or benefits of applying the duty as a whole."  While equality and diversity specialists within the public sector unsurprisingly championed the duty, the review team experienced very limited engagement by the business community as a whole to the review.  Overall, the following recommendations have been made: 

For the Equality and Human Rights Commission:

  • Guidance must be clearer on the minimum requirements placed on public bodies. 

  • Regulators, inspectorates and relevant ombudsmen services should integrate the duty in their core functions and collaborate closely with the Commission with respect to compliance action. 

  • Public bodies should not collect diversity data unless it is necessary for them to do so. 


For public bodies:

  • Adopt a proportionate approach to compliance and do not seek to “gold plate”. 

  • Reduce the burdens placed on small employers. 

  • Remove Pre-Qualification Questionnaires (PQQs) for contracts below £100k and utilise the government’s core PQQ, which does not include equality requirements, for contracts over this amount. 

  • Do not impose onerous or disproportionate requirements on contractors delivering services (particularly those with fewer than 50 employees) to provide equality data on workforce and service users.


For contractors:

  • Public bodies should be challenged where their procurement processes create barriers for small businesses and charities.  


For Government:

  • Public bodies must be proportionate in publishing information. 

  • Enforcement of the duty needs to be proportionate and appropriate. 

  • It is too early to make a final judgement about the impact of the duty. Government should consider conducting a formal evaluation of the Duty in three years’ time. 

Sign up to our email digest

Click to subscribe or manage your email preferences.

SUBSCRIBE