Creating a fairer Britain
On the 5th April 2011, the Equality Act 2010 introduced a new public sector general equality duty which became law across Britain.
The general equality duty requires Scottish public authorities to pay 'due regard' to the need to: eliminate unlawful discrimination, victimisation and harassment; advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations.
These requirements apply across the 'protected characteristics' of age; disability; gender reassignment; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion and belief; sex and sexual orientation and to a limited extent to marriage and civil partnership. This single duty replaced the three previous duties relating to race, disability and gender equality.
At the end of 2011 the Scottish Government consulted on a set of Specific Duty Regulations, designed to enable the better performance of the general duty by listed authorities. The Government have very recently published their analysis of the consultation, together with the final draft regulations.
To support Scottish public authorities in meeting their equality duties in their work, the Commission has produced non-statutory interim guidance which is available here. This guidance will be updated by May 2012 to assist bodies in implementing the new Specific Duty Regulations.
Our intention was to produce a statutory code for the public sector duties in Scotland and codes for the Further and Higher Education (FEHE) sector and schools in Scotland. Unfortunately, we are no longer able to proceed with this plan. The Westminster Government is keen to reduce bureaucracy around the Equality Act 2010, and feels that statutory codes may place too much of a burden on public bodies. Although the Commission has powers to issue codes, it cannot do so without the approval of the Secretary of State, as we are reliant upon the Westminster Government to lay codes before parliament, in order for them to be statutory.
It is the Commission’s view that, rather than creating a regulatory burden, statutory codes have a valuable role to play in making clearer to everyone what is and is not needed in order to comply with the public sector duties. However, as this is no longer an option, we feel the best solution is to issue our draft code as a non statutory code instead. This non statutory code will still give a formal, authoritative, and comprehensive legal interpretation of the PSED and will make it clear to everyone what the requirements of the legislation are. The draft Scotland PSED non statutory code will be published in May for review and we will be looking for feedback on the draft texts so that we can make sure they fully meet the needs of public bodies and other potential users.
If you have any questions or feedback please contact the Commission in Scotland.