All public authorities and private and voluntary bodies carrying out public functions on behalf of a public authority are subject to the general duty, and this Chapter explains how to meet it.
All public authorities are legally required, when exercising their functions, to have due regard to the need:
to eliminate discrimination and harassment that is unlawful under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (SDA) and discrimination that is unlawful under the Equal Pay Act 1970 (EqPA)
to promote equality of opportunity between men and women.
This means that the duty is not a negative or passive one, but requires public authorities to adopt a proactive approach to meeting the duty. When the EOC (and subsequently the CEHR) and public sector inspectorates are monitoring and evaluating compliance with this duty, they will be looking for evidence of action and positive change. Without such evidence, it will be difficult to establish that the authority is meeting the gender equality duty.
Smaller public authorities will have fewer resources and this will affect the steps which they take to ensure compliance with the general duty.
How the different parts of the duty work together
As stated above the general duty has three parts:
eliminating unlawful discrimination
promoting equality of opportunity between men and women
These three parts support each other, and in practice may overlap. For example, promoting equality of opportunity may also eliminate or prevent unlawful discrimination and harassment. It is important to remember, however, that the three parts are different, and that achieving on one may not lead to achieving all three. Public authorities should consider and deal with all three parts of the gender duty.
Unlawful discrimination includes discrimination as defined by the SDA, and discrimination that is unlawful under the EqPA. Public authorities are legally required to have due regard to the need to eliminate both forms of discrimination.
In the SDA, unlawful discrimination is defined as:
direct and indirect discrimination on grounds of sex
discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity leave
discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment
direct and indirect discrimination against married persons and civil partners