Creating a fairer Britain
This page provides information about the Commission’s monitoring and enforcement work on the equality duty.
Public authorities in England (and non-devolved bodies in Scotland and Wales) which are subject to the specific duties had until 31 January 2012 to publish information to demonstrate compliance with the general equality duty. Schools and pupil referral units had until 6 April 2012 to publish their information. The Commission published guidance to help public authorities decide what equality information they need to publish. If public authorities do not publish equality information as required by the specific duty regulations, they risk being subjected to legal challenge (including enforcement action by the Commission), as well as potential damage to their reputation.
The Commission undertook an assessment of the information published by public authorities (not including schools) between February and April 2012. This covered 1,159 public authorities in England. The websites of public authorities were reviewed, to assess to what extent they had published relevant and accessible information. The aims of the assessment were to
A report, Publishing equality information: Commitment, engagement and transparency sets out the findings of the assessment. The report not only looks at performance on the specific duty, but it also sets out what good practice looks like. The report concludes with a number of recommendations for public authorities on how to improve their performance. The findings in the report should enable public authorities to learn from each other and to improve the quality, extent and clarity of the equality information that they produce and publish, in order to improve their equality outcomes.
This section provides information on enforcement issues with regard to the equality duty.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission uses a range of strategies to ensure compliance with the equality duty, including:
We select the most appropriate tool to ensure we achieve the best outcomes depending on the circumstances. For example, we recognise that working with organisations can, in appropriate cases, achieve wider and more sustainable change. The availability of our enforcement powers encourages organisations to work with us, so where appropriate, we have built positive, collaborative relationships rather than adopting an adversarial approach.
The Commission has strategically used its enforcement powers to bring about positive change with maximum and lasting impact. We have applied agreed criteria - set out in our legal strategy - to determine whether, when and how we might use our powers to best effect.
As a Commission, we have pursued a range of actions to secure compliance with the equality duties. The Commission has worked to support public authorities and to bring about outcomes which change organisational culture, policy and service provision. Within this context, we have undertaken extensive pre-enforcement action work with numerous authorities relating to all the equality duties.
Where appropriate, we use our statutory enforcement power (section 31 of the Equality Act 2006) to assess the extent to which or the manner in which a person has complied with both the general and specific duty. In doing so, the Commission must make clear to the public authority the areas to be covered by the assessment and allow public authorities to make representations.
The Commission has a power to enforce breaches of the general equality duty by serving a compliance notice upon completion of a formal assessment (under section 31 of the Equality Act 2006). It also has a power to enforce breaches of the specific duties by serving a compliance notice.
The Commission has a power to institute judicial review proceedings in matters of relevance to its functions including where a public authority has breached the general equality duty. See more on judicial review.
The Commission has a power to intervene in proceedings to assist the court in clarifying the law. The Commission has intervened in a number of legal cases and it will continue to do so. When it intervenes in a case, the Commission is not supporting one side or the other but offering expert advice to the court on how to interpret the law. It has already used this power extensively with the intention of ensuring that the courts set helpful legal precedents. See examples of our interventions.
Where the Commission suspects that a public authority is breaching the equality duty, it may enter into an agreement with the authority whereby the authority agrees to take certain steps to comply and in return the Commission agrees not to issue a compliance notice.