What is the Public Sector Equality Duty?
The single Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) came into effect in April 2011 as a result of the Equality Act 2010. It requires public bodies to promote equality and replaced three pre-existing duties relating to disability, race and gender equality.
The PSED applies to all maintained and independent schools, including academies, and maintained and non-maintained special schools.
The Department for Education (DfE) has published non-statutory advice that sets out schools' obligations under the PSED.
Paragraph 5.1 explains that the PSED extends to the following protected characteristics:
- Race, disability, sex, age, religion or belief, sexual orientation, pregnancy and maternity, gender reassignment
Three key elements of PSED:
Paragraph 5.1 of the document explains that the PSED has three main elements. In carrying out their functions, public bodies are required to have due regard to the need to:
- Eliminate discrimination and other conduct that is prohibited by the Equality Act 2010
- Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it
- Foster good relations across all characteristics, and between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it
Paragraph 5.4 of the DfE's advice says that 'due regard' has been defined in case law and means giving "relevant and proportionate consideration to the duty".
For schools, this means:
- Decision makers must be aware of the duty to have due regard when making a decision or taking an action, and must assess whether it may have implications for people with particular protected characteristics
- Schools should consider equality implications before and at the time that they develop policy and take decisions, not as an afterthought, and they need to keep them under review on a continuing basis
- The PSED has to be integrated into the carrying out of the school’s functions, and the analysis necessary to comply with the duty has to be carried out seriously, rigorously and with an open mind