Reflecting the duty in the mainstream business plan will also have practical benefits, through bringing together the planning processes of the public authority as a whole with those required under the duty. Having clear gender equality objectives in the organisational business plan, and reporting against them in the annual report could also improve staff ownership, and transparency and accountability to stakeholders.
Ensuring implementation through clear staff roles
It is recommended as a matter of good practice that a senior member of staff should be given strategic responsibility for ensuring the duty is implemented. In larger authorities, they will need to work with a group of colleagues from policy development, service delivery, employment and, where contracted-out services form a part of the authority's functions, procurement staff. This working group may also be working on the wider equality agenda, including the race and disability duties, but will need to pay specific attention to meeting gender equality goals. The working group will need to develop and drive forward a specific action plan, which allows for effective monitoring and review of progress.
Smaller authorities will also need to ensure one person is given responsibility for ensuring the duty is implemented, that all functions of the authority are appropriately dealt with, and that there is an action plan.
Many larger authorities employ specialist equality staff to steer the process of implementing equality; smaller ones may make it part of a person’s responsibilities. It is recommended that specialist equality posts should be located in a strategic part of the public authority such as policy, performance management, planning or strategy. The human resources function will have to play a crucial role in the employment aspects but is not best placed to lead overall, as the duty requires due regard in all functions of a public authority, including service delivery and policy-making.
Wherever they are situated, equality staff or lead individuals cannot be expected to bear all responsibility for the successful implementation of the duty. That will require ownership, action and culture change across the organisation as a whole. Designating a senior person with significant strategic or management responsibilities, supported by designated key staff, should contribute to change across the organisation.
Reporting on progress to senior management team meetings should help increase their understanding that gender equality can and should be a core part of their business and of their policy development and service delivery objectives, not just a marginal issue or a small part of human resources work.
Staff expertise and training
In addition to any specialist equality staff, it will also be necessary to build the skills and understanding of relevant staff within the public authority, for example policy and service managers, procurement staff, and human resource managers. Where an authority is subject to the specific duties, relevant staff throughout the organisation will have to have the skills to collect and analyse gender data, to ensure that stakeholders are consulted effectively and to undertake gender impact assessments. These skills will also be useful for authorities which are subject to the general duty only. In some specialist