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PROMOTING EQUALITY Briefing 138
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PROMOTING EQUALITY

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 them.

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 to:-

  • 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 segregation
  • 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 we provide?
  • 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's POSITION

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 are :-

Adequate resources and funding

Appropriate guidance, education and training

The duty must apply to the private and voluntary sectors.

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 bargaining agenda
  • Initiate discussions with employers at the relevant joint level
  • 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 www.eoc.org.uk www.dti.gov.uk/womenandequalityunit

 

 

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Further Information

www.unison.org.uk/women
www.eoc.org.uk

www.dti.gov.uk/womenandequalityunit

Contacts list: Eileen Dinning e.dinning@unison.co.uk

Dave Watson - d.watson@unison.co.uk

@ The P&I Team 14 West Campbell St Glasgow G26RX Tel 0845 355 0845 Fax 0141-221 8953