What is the public sector equality obligation?

Public sector equality means that public authorities must consider the need to perform the following tasks when they carry out their duties eliminate unlawful discrimination

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Advance equality of opportunity for people who share a protected trait and those who do not

Encourage or foster good relationships between people who share a protected trait and those who don’t.

What is a protected characteristic?

The Equality Act protects people who have protected characteristics, such as race, gender, or disability. If your protected characteristic is being discriminated against, public authorities cannot discriminate against you.

The Equality Act protects marriage and civil partnerships, but it is not subject to the public sector equality obligation.

Which public authorities are not required to observe the equality duty in public service?

In some cases, public authorities are exempt from the obligation to ensure equality in the public sector. It depends on the functions that the public authority performs.

  • Judiciary functions

Public authorities that perform judicial functions are exempted from the public sector equality duty. Courts, for example, don’t have the obligation to consider their public-sector equality duty when they decide how to proceed in proceedings or make judgments in cases they are faced with.

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  • Age-related exceptions

The public sector equality duty does not apply to public authorities in respect of age in these areas.

  • Education and provision of services for pupils in schools
  • The provision of accommodation and other services in children’s homes.

This means that schools don’t have the obligation to promote equality of opportunity among pupils of different ages. This doesn’t mean that schools don’t need to consider how to foster good relationships between students of different ages.

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It would have to consider other issues, such as the need for good relations among pupils from different religions and the need for equal opportunities for students with disabilities.

  • Immigration functions

Public authorities that are involved in immigration activities don’t need to consider the need to promote equality of opportunity with respect to the following protected characteristics.

  • Age
  • Religion or belief

This means that, for example, immigration officers do not have to consider the need to promote equality of opportunity for people from different religions when making immigration decisions such as refusing someone permission to stay or live in the UK.

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They would have to still consider equality of opportunity for people with different sexual orientations or disabilities.