What is the general public sector equality duty under the Equality Act 2010?

Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 provides for the general public sector equality duty. This requires public authorities to have due regard to the need to:

  • eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation;
  • advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not; and
  • foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.

The duty covers the protected characteristics of race, disability, sex, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief, pregnancy and maternity and gender reassignment. Only the first part of the duty - the duty to eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation - also applies to the protected characteristic of marriage and civil partnership.

There are also "specific" public sector equality duties, which have the purpose of enabling better performance of, and demonstrating compliance with, the general duty. The Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011 (SI 2011/2260) provide for the specific duties in relation to public authorities in England and to the non-devolved functions of public authorities in Scotland and Wales. The Equality Act 2010 (Statutory Duties) (Wales) Regulations 2011 (SI 2011/1064) provide for specific duties for relevant Welsh public authorities. The Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012 (SI 2012/162) provide for specific duties for relevant Scottish public authorities.