The Equality Act 2010 (the Act), which came into force on 1 October 2010, provides a single legal framework for promoting equality and tackling discrimination in the UK on the basis of protected characteristics.
The Act has introduced a Public Sector Equality Duty (the Equality Duty) which applies to those public bodies listed in Schedule 19 to the Act. The Equality Duty came into force on 5 April 2011 and for the purposes of the Equality Duty, the relevant protected characteristics are: age; disability; gender reassignment; pregnancy and maternity; race (including ethnic or national origin, colour and nationality); religion or belief; sex and sexual orientation.
The Equality Duty requires those public bodies bound by it, in the exercise of their functions, to have due regard to the need to:
- eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under the Act;
- advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a ‘relevant protected characteristic’ and persons who do not share it; and
- foster good relations between persons who share a ‘relevant protected characteristic’ and persons who do not share it.
To support the general Equality Duty, the Act also imposes specific duties on public bodies to publish equality objectives, at least every four years, and to publish information to demonstrate compliance with the Equality Duty at least annually.