In May 2012, the Home Secretary Theresa May announced a review of the public sector equality duty. This brought forward a review of the Equality Act (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011, which is now combined with a review of the general duty.

The review is focusing on the following themes:

  • How well understood is the public sector equality duty and associated guidance
  • What are the costs and benefits of the public sector equality duty
  • How organisations are managing legal risk and ensuring compliance with the public sector equality duty
  • What changes, if any, would ensure better equality outcomes (legislative, administrative and/or enforcement changes, for example).

The steering group has issued a call for evidence as to how the public sector equality duty works that relate to any or all of the above “themes”. Any evidence should be submitted to the steering group by 19 April.

Richard Arthur of Thompsons Solicitors commented that: "This review arose out of the government’s “Red Tape Challenge spotlight on equalities”, which is a scandalous way to characterise the public sector equality duty.

"The Equality Act 2010 replaced the pre-existing duties with a single public sector equality duty covering the protected characteristics. In England, the detailed specific duties comprised within the race, gender and disability duty were replaced with the much weaker duties to set objectives and publish information. The current version only started to operate in April 2011.

"On any analysis, it is far too early to be able to make any sensible analysis of the effect and operation of the current version of the public sector equality duty. And it is noticeable that the steering group mainly comprises representatives of organisations who are subject to the public sector equality duty.

"A reasonable inference to draw is that the review has been brought about by the use of the public sector equality duty in challenges to austerity measures such as the school buildings programme and library closures".

The government is not proposing a full consultation, but the steering group is due to produce a report by the end of June. For full details of the review, visit the UK government website.