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Public Sector equality duty

Equality -logo -FinalThe Public Sector Equality Duty creates a legal duty under the Equality Act 2017 on specific public authorities to prevent discrimination, harassment or victimisation by considering the effect of their policies or decisions on people who are protected by the Act. This is in addition to their duty not to discriminate against you.

The duty aims to make sure public authorities think about things like discrimination and the needs of people who are disadvantaged or suffer inequality when they make decisions about how they provide their services and implement policies.

The public authorities subject to this duty includes:

  • Government Departments
  • Statutory Boards, such as Manx Utilities Authority and Isle of Man Post Office
  • Local Authorities
  • Chief Constable
  • Manx Museum and National Trust
  • Public Service Commission
  • Attorney General’s Chambers and
  • General Registry

A person who is not a public authority but carries out a public function is also subject to the duty, so this includes those organisations who undertake government contracts, for example building contractors undertaking work on behalf of the Government. It also applies to any person exercising public functions

The PSED applies in respect of all the protected characteristics, except that the duties to advance equality and foster good relations do not apply to marriage or civil partnership. Otherwise, it applies to all of the protected characteristics, including age, and so will promote and protect children’s rights whatever their characteristics.

When making decisions and exercising its functions, a public authority must have due regard to the need to:

  • Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation
  • Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who don’t and
  • Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who don’t

Having due regard means public authorities must consciously consider or think about the need to do these three things in the duty. If a public authority hasn’t properly considered its public sector equality duty, you can challenge that decision in the High Court with a petition of doleance. Applying the duty must be done using robust evidence, such as data and/or consultation.

An effective method of demonstrating compliance with the duty is to undertake an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) to assess how policies and decisions of a public authority are likely to affect, or have affected people with different protected characteristics, looking for ways to promote equality and to remove negative aspects or institutional discrimination.

There is no legal requirement to publish an EIA but you could request a public authority to evidence compliance with the public sector equality duty by asking the public authority to provide this or failing this, by submitting a Freedom of Information request.

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