Legal action warning issued to Trusts not complying with the Race Relations Act

NHS Trusts face enforcement action

07 December 2009

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has issued compliance notices to three NHS Trusts warning that they need to take steps immediately to address race equality or face legal action for failing to comply with the Race Relations Act.

The Commission believes Frimley Park Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust, and NHS Surrey are in breach of the Act’s Race Equality Duty. This Duty requires certain public authorities to eliminate racial discrimination, and promote equal opportunities and good race relations.

The Trusts have failed to put in place compliant Race Equality Schemes that set out how they will meet the Duty including:

  • an assessment of functions and policies relevant to race equality
  • the arrangements for monitoring policies for any adverse impact on the promotion of race equality
  • assessing and consulting on the likely impact of proposed policies on the promotion of race equality
  • training staff on how to adhere to the Duty

In addition, NHS Surrey and Kent and Medway NHS must take particular steps to improve their employment monitoring in accordance with their obligations under the Race Relations Act. Obligations required of listed public authorities include putting in place arrangements to monitor the ethnic background of staff and applicants for jobs, promotions and training, as well as monitoring the number of staff from each racial group who are involved in grievance procedures, subject to disciplinary procedures or cease employment with them.

Each Trust has also failed to carry out equality impact assessments on policies. The Commission has asked the Trusts to address these deficiencies.

The three NHS Trusts have received a compliance notice which is the first step in formal legal action. They have three months to put the scheme and monitoring plans in place. Failure to deliver may result in an application to the County Court.

The Commission is writing to a number of other Trusts about concerns it has with their failure to comply with race laws. The Commission is also in discussion with the Strategic Health Authority about how they can play a leading role in improving the standards of compliance by Trusts within their area.

Susie Uppal, Director of Legal Enforcement at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

“Race Equality Schemes have a vital role to play in removing unfairness and disadvantage against ethnic minority groups. They help to ensure that racial equality is a central part of the way public authorities provide their services.

“The Commission has an obligation to investigate possible breaches of race equality law by public authorities and take action where it is warranted. These three NHS Trusts have been found to be in breach of the Race Relations Act. They can avoid legal action by providing a satisfactory response to our letter and taking steps to meet their requirements under the Act.

“Local NHS Trusts have a legal obligation to take a lead on promoting racial equality and the Commission will ensure that they fulfil that obligation.”

Ends

See more: Public Sector Equality Duties

For more press information contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission media office on 020 3117 0255, out of hours 07767 272 818.

For general enquiries please contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s national helpline: England 0845 604 6610 / Scotland 0845 604 5510 / Wales 0845 604 8810

Notes to Editors

Earlier this year the South East Coast Black and Minority Ethnic Network (BME) undertook an inquiry into compliance with the Race Equality Duty by NHS networks. Following this they published a report which highlighted in particular inequality in respect of employment issues. The Commission commenced its inquiries as a result of this report.

Race Equality Duty

The Race Equality Duty was introduced into legislation in the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. It means that public bodies must have ‘due regard’ to the need to:

  • eliminate unlawful racial discrimination
  • promote equality of opportunity
  • promote good relations between people of different racial groups

Specifically, all listed public bodies must publish a Race Equality Scheme that identifies all functions/policies that are relevant to race equality. The scheme should be a timetabled and realistic plan, setting out the public body's arrangements for meeting the general and specific duties. They must also set out arrangements to:

  • Assess and consult on the likely impact proposed policies will have on the promotion of race equality found in our race equality impact assessment guidance
  • Monitor policies for adverse impact
  • Publish the results of the impact assessment, consultation and monitoring
  • Make sure the public have access to information and services
  • Train staff on both the general and specific duties 
  • Review the list of functions/policies at least every three years

The Race Equality Employment Duty

Under the Race Equality Duty, all listed public bodies must monitor their staff by racial group (using the categories of the 2001 census) recording the number of staff in post, and applications for employment, and promotion and training.
Employers with over 150 staff must also monitor for training, performance appraisals, grievances, disciplinary action and reasons for leaving their employment. These findings of this monitoring must be published annually.

Equality and Human Rights Commission

The 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. It 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 Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status, and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act. It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.