The Commission's regulatory approach
The Commission's regulatory functions and powers are set out in the Equality Act 2006.
For us, the purpose of regulation is to change behaviour in society and to prevent and stop unlawful actions through working with individuals and organisations in the public, private and voluntary sectors. We do this to improve equality, human rights and good relations in society. Helping people and organisations comply with legislation is the main focus of this work, and sometimes this will mean formal enforcement action, using the powers the Act gives us.
Regulation does not just mean legal enforcement action such as inquiries and investigations. It also means providing advice, raising awareness and understanding, transferring expertise and supporting organisations in their efforts to comply with the law.
In short, we have a range of tools we can use, and we will always choose the method that will work best in each circumstance. We base our actions on evidence and an assessment of what is in the public interest. In so doing, we are bound by the Hampton Code of Practice for Regulators, which outlines five principles of good regulation: proportionality, accountability, consistency, transparency and targeting.
We carry out our regulatory remit on different levels. The Commission:
- has direct regulatory responsibility (and is bound by codes of practice) for promoting equality, human rights and for ensuring compliance with the law
- works with other regulators in the public, private and voluntary sectors
- has a public leadership and advocacy role – we aim to create a consensus which recognises that equality and human rights are central to a fair society
- is the UK’s accredited National Human Rights Institute (NHRI) and works in accordance with the Paris Principles – which means, for example, monitoring and acting on violations of human rights, advising government and educating the public.
Principles are important to frame our approach to work and relationships with stakeholders, partners and those who we regulate. Our principles are:
- The Commission will aim to lead society’s understanding of new challenges in equality and human rights. An important part of this making sure that we fully understand the challenges that organisations face in embedding equality and human rights in their activities.
- The Commission is committed to openness and transparency in its regulatory work. We will therefore publish our plans and priorities every year to ensure that all stakeholders have a clear idea of our work programme. We will also report back on how we’ve met our objectives.
- The Commission’s job is to help organisations and individuals comply with the law and follow the highest standards of practice. We have a range of tools which can help people to do this and we’ll use these dependent on the challenges they face. These tools do include enforcement and litigation powers and we’ll use those proportionately, firmly, promptly and effectively when required.
- We will ensure all our actions are evidence-based, proportionate, consistent, accountable and transparent. This includes explaining why we have chosen a particular course of action or why we have decided not to get involved.
- We will use our resources in the most efficient, effective and economic way. That means we target our resources where they are most likely to have the greatest impact and without using more of our regulatory powers or resources than are needed.
- The Commission will work in partnership with other businesses, organisations and other regulators. However, our own independence and direct powers are important and we’ll take care not to prejudice these.
The setting of regulatory objectives or aims is a first step in defining the regulatory regime. It is against clear primary objectives that the regulator must determine the appropriate regulatory action. They are also the measures against which a regulator is held accountable and are therefore critical for those charged with regulatory responsibility. In terms of the operation of the regulatory framework and a risk based approach, regulatory authorities should use their resources where the risks to the established objectives and principles are the greatest.
The Commission’s regulatory objectives are:
- To bring about a society that understands and respects equality and human rights – we aim to do that by shaping and influencing attitudes and behaviours.
- To improve organisations’ and individuals’ compliance with equality and human rights obligations and duties.
- To build confidence and understanding of equality and human rights across the private, public and voluntary sectors.
- To protect individuals from discrimination and human rights violations.
- To become an effective and credible regulator and NHRI.