Creating a fairer Britain
MAY 28 2012
The Scottish Government’s new regulations, which place specific equality duties on named public authorities in Scotland, came into force on Sunday 27 May.
These specific duties are designed to help public authorities develop better policies and practices, improve transparency and accountability, and deliver better outcomes for everyone in Scotland.
The duties also look to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and advance equality of opportunity between different groups. The challenges of inequality in Scotland are significant:
• just under half of disabled people are employed.
• only one third of managerial jobs are held by women
• women are paid 12% less than men in full time work
• one in eight LGBT people are victims of “hate crime” every year
The specific duties are designed to take action on such issues of inequality and are an effective means of helping public authorities deliver better outcomes for the individuals and communities they serve. For the first time, they also include a duty to assess impact on equality, improving the outcomes of policies and practices for all equality groups.
Key elements of the specific duties include equality outcomes, impact assessment, and the recording of employment, gender pay gap and occupational segregation information.
Kaliani Lyle, EHRC Scotland Commissioner said: ‘We believe the duties are robust without being overly-prescriptive. We believe that they will move Scotland beyond an approach to equality that has too often in the past been dismissed as “box ticking” and into a new phase focussed on outcomes; achieving genuine change in processes, policies and decisions that will bring real benefits for many individuals whose lives are blighted by inequality.’
To coincide with the new specific duties on equality, the EHRC has also today published their report ‘Mitigating Action within Scottish Public Bodies’.
Looking specifically at Education Authorities (in relation to primary school provision)
and Police Forces, the aim of the research was to see how well these public bodies anticipated and assessed the possible negative impacts of their policies on equality – known as Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs).
A key finding from the research was that EIAs are not taken seriously by many public bodies, and practice was patchy at best. This could lead to decisions and policies being made that would have disproportionate negative impacts on particular groups.
Other findings included:
• nearly one third of Education Authorities had conducted no full EIAs
• nearly half of the assessment templates were poor – meaning that a full EAI was unlikely to be carried out
• of the 101 completed EIAs received, 56% contained no evidence for decisions
• mitigating actions against negative impact were identified by only seven public bodies
However, the report did identify pockets of good practice, particularly where mitigating action was identified.
Kaliani Lyle said: ‘Effective equality impact assessments are a vital tool for public bodies to ensure that they take constructive action on equality issues. Identifying disproportionate negative impacts that policies and decisions may have on specific groups means that they can make the right decisions first time, to develop better policies and practices based on actual evidence and assessment. The new duties will ensure that authorities carrying out impact assessments don’t simply disregard their findings when making decisions.’
For further information on the ‘Mitigating Action within Scottish Public Bodies’ report and for press enquiries contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission: Deborah Cowan on 0141 228 5938 or 07970 787 234
Notes to editors:
• The Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations can be found here
• The ‘Mitigating Action within Scottish Public Bodies’ research gathered information on 26 of the 32 education authorities and from all eight police forces.
• The assessments of the submitted EIAs carried out in this report were anonymised.
• Read the full report here
• The Commission has also published non-statutory guidance for public authorities struggling with how to make difficult decisions in ways that promote equality rather than aggravate inequalities between different sections of society.
• The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission.
• The Equality and Human Rights Commission is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain. It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights.
• The Equality and Human Rights Commission will enforce equality legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status, and encourage compliance with the Human Rights Act. It will also give advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.