Members role in Equalities
1. What is the Equality Act?
The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. It replaced previous anti-discrimination laws with a single Act.
2. Who is protected by the Act?
Everyone in Britain is protected by the Act. The “protected characteristics” under the Act are:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion and belief
- Sexual orientation
3. What behaviour is unlawful?
Discrimination, harassment or victimisation of another person because they have any of the protected characteristics:
- Discrimination means treating one person worse than another because of a protected characteristic (known as direct discrimination) or putting in place a rule or policy or way of doing things that has a worse impact on someone with a protected characteristic than someone without one, when this cannot be objectively justified (known as indirect discrimination)
- Harassment includes unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic which has the purpose of effect of violating someone’s dignity or which creates a hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for someone with a protected characteristic.
- Victimisation is treating someone unfavourably because they have taken (or might be taking) action under the Equality Act or supporting somebody who is doing so.
4. What is the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED)?
It is part of the Equality Act 2010 and sets out additional duties for public bodies like the council, and for organisations acting on behalf of the council. It consists of a ‘general equality duty’ and ’specific duties’.
The general equality duty requires the council, in the exercise of its functions, to have due regard to the need to:
- Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation
- Advance equality of opportunity between different groups
- Foster good relations between different groups
The specific duties require the council to publish:
- equality objectives, at least every four years
- information to demonstrate compliance with the equality duty, at least annually.
5. What is an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA)?
When making decisions and setting policies the council must show that it understands the potential effects of its activities on different people. If these effects are not immediately apparent it may be necessary to carry out equality impact assessment. Case law suggests that it is good practice to document how decisions were reached. The EIA form is a way of recording what equality information the council has considered.
6. What are my legal responsibilities?
Case law sets out very clear guidance on what organisations need to do to show ‘due regard’. As a decision-maker you need to:
- Be aware of your responsibilities under the duty
- Make sure you have adequate evidence (including from consultation, if appropriate) to enable you to understand the potential effects of your decisions on different people covered by the duty
- Consciously and actively consider the relevant matters, in such a way that it influences decision-making
- Do this before and at the time a decision is taken, not after the event
- Be aware that the duty can’t be delegated to third parties who are carrying out functions on their behalf
The equality duty does not prevent the council from making difficult financial decisions, but the decisions must be made in a fair, transparent and accountable way. The needs and rights of different members of the community must be seen to have been understood.
7. How do I find equality information for my ward?
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Where can I find more information?
Darlington Council’s Equality pages have data around equality figures in Darlington: /your-council/communities/equality-information/
Equality and Human Rights Commission http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/
Government Equalities Office https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/government-equalities-office