UNISON gives evidence to the equality duty review

UNISON has submitted evidence to the review of the public sector equality duty in England, emphasising how important the duty is as a tool for effective and fair service delivery.

The union’s response makes a number of points.

To begin with, it has only been two years since the Public Sector Equality Duty came into force and this review is premature. UNISON says that we know that it takes time to embed good practice and mainstream processes.

However, evidence collected even in this short period – and evidence from the previous duties – shows that it does help public bodies deliver their services more fairly, accurately and effectively.

The original race equality duty represented a sea-change in public policy, away from a reactive, sticking-plaster response to discrimination to a proactive pursuit of equality outcomes.

Over the decades of building from that starting point, much has been learned.

Most effective implementation occurs where there is active engagement with employees and service users, particularly those from protected groups. The specific duties for Scotland and Wales make this more likely than the current specific duties for England.

Where implementation of the duty has been ineffective or inefficient, UNISON believes that this is largely due to lack of understanding, inertia following mixed messages from government, and lack of authoritative guidance.

UNISON recognises that ineffective implementation has been exacerbated by the recent decimation of public bodies’ equality and policy teams due to budget cuts. These roles provided the skills and knowledge to enable efficient operation of the duty.

Clarity from government, plus the time to embed good practice – supported by a statutory code and robust strategic enforcement from the Equality and Human Rights Commission – will ensure that resources are better targeted and will enable better monitoring of added social value.

It is therefore essential to keep the Public Sector Equality Duty and, indeed, strengthen the specific duties for England.

For a copy of the full response, email equality@unison.co.uk.