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Equality North East

Public bodies face compliance dilemma with Equality Act's demands

OPINION: Public authorities are having to gamble on how to try to meet the impossible demands of new equalities legislation. Authorities will have to try to second guess a consultation process if they are to have any chance of meeting an April deadline.

Most of the Equality Act came into force earlier this month. One key part, though, will not take effect until April. The trouble is that it could impose a huge obligation on organisations and give them almost no time to meet its demands.

The Act imposes on public bodies a 'single equality duty'. This duty is a good idea – it demands that organisations eliminate discrimination and promote equality. They must publish information related to equality and set and meet equality objectives.

This applies to all the characteristics covered by the Equality Act – race, disability, sex, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief, pregnancy and maternity and gender reassignment. It replaces equivalent duties currently limited to race, gender and disability equality.

The problem is with the time scale being set by Government. The duty will come into force on 4th April 2011. Yet the consultation on the duty has not even closed. The Government response may not be published until three months after the consultation has ended, meaning February of next year.

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November 1, 2010

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