Promoting the Gender Equality Duty

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2007 National Women's Conference
26 October 2006

Conference is pleased to note that with effect from April 2007, there will be a statutory duty on all public authorities to have due regard to the need to:

1)eliminate unlawful sex discrimination;

2)promote equality of opportunity between men and women

Public authorities will no longer be able to simply respond to complaints of sex discrimination and sexual harassment, they will have to identify and tackle sex discrimination, to prevent harassment, and to ensure that their policies and practices promote equality of opportunity between men and women.

The Duty will apply to all public authorities in respect of all of their functions – to policy-making, service provision and employment matters. It also applies to public authorities in relation to services and functions which are contracted out.

Crucially, the Equal Opportunities Commission’s Code of Practice on the Gender Duty refers specifically to consultation with, and involvement of, trade unions as stakeholders, and identifies 13 employment priorities which are longstanding items on the equality bargaining agenda.

UNISON, as the largest UK public sector union, is in the best possible position to influence the implementation of the gender duty, with our members participating in the consultation process both as service users and service providers.

Conference therefore calls on the National Women’s Committee to work with the National Executive Council, Service Groups and other relevant bodies in UNISON to:

a)ensure that all branches and service groups are aware of the potential of the Gender Equality Duty to change the working lives of women;

b)issue guidance to branches on how to participate in the consultation process and the effective use of the Duty to achieve gender equality goals;

c)work with regions to share best practice and support the implementation of the gender duty;

d)lobby the government to ensure that the Equal Opportunities Commission and the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights are adequately funded to carry out their essential roles of monitoring and enforcement of the Duty.