Briefing No. 138 June 2006
WHAT IS IT ?
The Gender Equality Duty Is part of the new Equality
Act and become law in April 2007. It is the biggest change in
sex equality legislation in 30 years and it will require public
authorities to pay due regard to promoting gender equality and
eliminating sex discrimination. In other words, it will put the
obligation on the public authority to take action to promote equality,
not on individuals to take action after discrimination happens.
WHAT WILL IT DO?
By putting the obligation on public sector employers
and service providers, it means they will require to have a radical
rethink of policies and the way that services are delivered, with
the different needs of women and men in mind. That means public
bodies will need to set their own gender equality goals in consultation
with service users and employees and to take action to achieve
WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE DUTY?
There are two aspects to the duty. The first
is 'the general duty'. This requires public authorities to eliminate
unlawful discrimination and harassment and to promote equality
of opportunity between women and men, and is seen as the core
of the gender duty. The second aspect is a series of 'specific
duties' setting out the exact steps public authorities should
take, and which are designed to support progress in delivering
the general duty. The specific duties will require public authorities
- Produce and publish an equality scheme identifying gender
equality goals and action to meet them, in consultation with
employers and stakeholders;
- Monitor and review progress
- Review the scheme every three years
- Develop, publish and regularly review an equal pay policy,
including measures to address promotion, development and occupational
- Conduct and publish gender impact assessments of all legislation
and major policy developments, and publish criteria for conducting
such impact assessments
WHAT WILL PUBLIC BODIES NEED TO DO?
Public service providers will need to look at
who uses their services And ask:-
- What are the priority issues for women and men in the services
- Do they have different needs within some services?
- Will women and men be put off using a service because of lack
of childcare or an unsafe and inaccessible environment?
- Are there some services which are more effectively delivered
as women-only or men-only?
One example, given by the Equal Opportunities
Commission, is that women use public transport in different ways
and for different reasons than men - both to get to work and to
access services, childcare and shopping. However, transport services
and town planning rarely recognise this. They often don't provide
easy access to transport for those carrying children or pushchairs,
or recognise that women have a greater fear of travelling at night.
Public sector employers will also need to look at their current
employment practices and consider the needs of all their staff,
including those that identify as transgender or transsexual.
Unison submitted a detailed response to the consultation,
which can be found on the main website under women (www.unison.org.uk/women).
The main points we made and the changes we wish to have included
· Adequate resources and funding
· Appropriate guidance, education and training
· The duty must apply to the private and voluntary
ACTION FOR UNISON
The implications for UNISON members are considerable.
Although we welcome any change in the legislation which aims to
eliminate anti-discriminatory practices, we need to ensure that
any significant changes do not impact negatively on our members
and the crucial work they undertake.
The new duty will come into legal force on 6
April 2007, and on that date, all listed public authorities will
be expected to have ready their gender equality schemes, containing
clear goals for action, based on solid evidence and decided in
consultation with stakeholders.
That is an extremely tight timescale and it means,
that branches need to start the process of discussion with employers
at the earliest opportunity. Over the coming months, we hope to
provide a detailed plan of action, which will assist branches.
Work by the Scottish Equalities Officer and the National Women's
Officer on a toolkit will start shortly. Discussions with the
EOC will also take place soon. In the meantime, branches should:-
- Make the Gender Equality Duty a key priority in the current
- Initiate discussions with employers at the relevant joint
- Publicise the implications of the Duty to the membership.
The next briefing will deal specifically with
the Equal Pay Section of the Gender Equality Duty.
For further information: www.unison.org.uk/women
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