UNISONScotland www
This is our archive website that is no longer being updated.
For the new website please go to
Click here
Home News About us Join Us Contacts Help Resources Learning Links UNISON UK

Stop the Cuts Public Works  


Million Voices

<< back to Toolkit Contents page

Equality duties

UNISON sees the introduction of public sector equality duties as a step towards a society where diversity is accepted as normal and equality as a benefit to everyone. The equality duties place a legal responsibility on public authorities, requiring them to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination. These duties require employers to have equality schemes in place and to ensure the active promotion of equality of opportunity for everyone.

What are the positive equality duties about?
Progress on tackling discrimination has been slow over the years and has often led to individual legal remedies that do not tackle underlying problems. The public sector equality duties are a fundamental change to this. Public authorities are now legally obliged to positively promote equality rather than solely taking steps to prevent discrimination. They have to increase equality for service users and staff, and monitor and review progress to ensure they are delivering results. UNISON sees this as a step towards a society where diversity is accepted as normal, and equality as a benefit to everyone. The first public sector duty was introduced in the Race Relations (Amendment) Act in 2002. The Disability Duty came into force in December 2006, and the Gender Duty in April 2007. UNISON does not believe any one type of discrimination is worse than another, and these principles should also be applied to sexual orientation, age, and religion and belief.

Why are the duties an issue for UNISON?
UNISON is at the forefront of campaigning for equalities in the workplace and in local communities. Supporting equality not only shows solidarity with people facing discrimination, but demonstrates the collective strength of a union to achieve results and inspire members, potential members, and activists to participate. Because the new duties require big changes from employers, branches cannot afford not to be involved. They are an opportunity for lead branch officers, branch equality officers, activists and members to work together to strengthen branch organisation. Employers must be held to account if they are not delivering equality for our members.

How can UNISON prevent services being privatised?
Public authorities must ensure that their procurement policies and practices comply with the equality duties. UNISON branch officers and stewards need to get involved with the detail of procurement processes to ensure compliance with the equality duties. In Northern Ireland, a number of attempts to privatise services have been stopped by UNISON’s reference to the equality duties.

How are the equality duties relevant to any proposed local government cuts?
It is up to the individual council, in consultation with stakeholders and trade unions to select priorities for action. Organisations should take a careful, evidence-based approach to developing objectives.  This means that local authorities will have to assess the impact on gender equality of existing policies and practices as well as future developments, and publish the results.

A gender impact assessment will ensure that there is no gender bias in any redundancy procedure. If it does then the redundancy strategy will have to be reviewed. UNISON has produced an equality duties guidance pack. This pack covers issues relating to individual equality strands; specific service groups; devolved nations; contracting (privatisation), and Union Learning Representatives.

A certain amount of jargon is contained in the duties, so there is a 'Jargon Buster' and references to the individual codes of practice issued by equality bodies and other resources are also included.

The Guidance can be accessed on www.unison.org.uk/equality/equalityduties

Page updated: 5 February 2010

top of page

Home | Press Releases | Scotland inUNISON