Public Sector Equality Duties and the Bargaining Agenda

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2009 National LGBT Conference
31 July 2009

Conference notes that the Equality Bill, which applies in England, Scotland and Wales, was introduced into Parliament on 24th April 2009. The Bill builds upon the public sector equality duties for gender, race and disability, incorporating them into a single equality duty, but also extends this to cover age, sexual orientation, religion or belief, pregnancy and maternity, and fully cover gender reassignment. This duty will not only apply to public bodies but also to private bodies delivering a public function and to the procurement processes that public bodies use.

The new duty will require public bodies to have “due regard” to the need to eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation on the listed grounds; to advance equality of opportunity for the listed groups; and to foster good relations between groups. These are positive duties – not just a duty to eradicate discrimination but an active duty to increase equality in society.

The Bill also enables regulations to be drafted to impose additional specific duties on certain bodies. The Equality and Human Rights Commission will be charged with producing statutory guidance on the implementation of the duty.

The new duty presents an opportunity to support and strengthen UNISON’s bargaining agenda on behalf of our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) members. For example, the duty could be used to question whether transferring a public sector care service to a private provider would affect the service provided to LGBT people – prospective service providers could be asked to prove that equality would be promoted by privatising the service.

Conference calls upon regional and branch LGBT groups to provide examples of how the new duty could be used, including where current practice fails to comply with its requirements and examples of good practice.

Conference instructs the National LGBT Committee to:

1.Collate ideas and examples of good practice in how the new duty can be used;

2.Work with the Northern Ireland region to ensure good practice examples from the already existing Section 75 duties are collated and publicised;

3.Campaign for robust specific duties and EHRC guidance, citing such examples;

4.Update LGBT bargaining factsheets to reflect the new duty and collated examples, including how it can be promoted as best practice in the private sector;

5.Publicise these factsheets to regions, branches and self-organised groups;

6.Make the updated factsheets available at National LGBT Conference 2010;

7.Consider a workshop on the new duties at National LGBT Conference 2010;

8.Work with UNISON’s Positively Public campaign to maximise the use of the new Equality Duty, and Section 75 in Northern Ireland, in campaigning to keep our public services public.