The 6th April marked a milestone in equality law with the introduction of the new public sector equality duty (PSED). Part of the Equality Act 2010, the PSED will ensure public sector organisations have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity, and foster good relations across all of the protected characteristics.

For the first time, public sector bodies will be required to demonstrate equality across all strands, including age, sexual orientation and religion or belief. This builds on the existing duties relating to disability, gender and race, and improves the coverage in relation to gender reassignment.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has produced easy to understand guidance to help public authorities fulfil their duties. Many public authorities are already demonstrating progress with equality and have found practical ways to eliminate discrimination in their services or workplace. For these authorities, the only change will be the newly extended protection to other characteristics.

Andrea Murray, the Commission’s Director of Policy, said:

‘For equality to flourish it is important that public bodies understand the impact of their decisions on all groups in society and that they can be held to account for them.

‘The new duty broadens the issues that public bodies have to take into account when making decisions. It requires them to understand the needs of their service users and to reflect equality considerations in their employment practice, the design of policies and the delivery of services.’