The term policy as used in the guidance refers to any activity of the Council, including functions, strategies, action plans, projects, reviews and evaluations, projects, programmes as well as policies and associated guidance and procedures. It also includes formal and informal decisions about how policies are implemented.
Public sector duties
The public sector duties are duties on public bodies such as the Council to promote equality. These are in addition to the already existing duties to eliminate unlawful discrimination. The public sector duties apply to race, disability and gender.
The duties include requirements to assess and reduce the adverse impact of policies, to consult on this and to publish the outcomes. There are also specific duties about increasing access to information and services, and about involving the people affected, and setting out our arrangements in a strategy and action plan called a Scheme. The Council’s Race Equality Scheme has been published and the Disability Scheme is currently under development.
Equality impact assessments
Our approach is to conduct generic equality impact assessments covering relevant equality groups and not just the ones we are required to consider by law.
If a policy or activity disadvantages one or more groups of people, this is considered to be an adverse impact. This may be shown by a significant difference in patterns of representation or in different needs, experiences, access to opportunities or outcomes between different groups.
We must consider how to reduce any adverse impact. The following questions will help when considering proposals:
- Will this help to eliminate unlawful discrimination?
- Will it promote equality of opportunity?
- Will it promote good relations between people of different groups?
There are various types of discrimination (found in legislation covering the following equality areas: sex, race, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation and age) which can amount to unlawful discrimination. The main types of unlawful discrimination are below:
This is where a person is treated less favourably than someone else in the same, or similar circumstances on grounds which are unlawful. Direct Discrimination can never be justified.
Failure to make a reasonable adjustment for a disabled person would be unlawful direct discrimination.
This is where an apparently neutral criterion or provision is applied which disadvantages people from one group compared to other and which cannot be shown to be proportionate and necessary to achieve a legitimate aim.
When someone’s actions or words, based on the relevant grounds, are unwelcome and violate another person’s dignity or create an environment that is intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive.
Where someone is treated differently because they have made a complaint of discrimination, or are thought to have done so, or because they have supported someone else who has made such a complaint.
Where separate facilities or services are provided for people of different racial groups (even where such provision is wholly equivalent) and the provision is not allowable as positive action.
In certain limited circumstances the law allows for positive action to overcome inequality. As this can be a very complex area of law, if you are considering any type of positive action, you should seek advice (for example, legal advice or advice from specialists in equality and human resources).
An example of positive action is the provision of training to meet the needs of particular groups who may be under-represented in a particular area of work. However, the law does not allow “positive discrimination” so positive action can only enable people of different groups to be put in the position of competing equally for jobs.
Genuine occupational requirement
A special type of positive action is where a job is advertised as needing to be filled by someone from a particular group because there is a genuine occupational requirement for this. This will only be valid where the requirements of the job justify this, and the work cannot be done by someone as part of their current job with that employer.
This would enable a disabled person to do the job, or access a service on an equitable basis compared to someone who is not disabled.