the role and scope of that body, but bodies with a broad role will need to ensure that the duty becomes an integral part of the inspection/audit process, built into their inspection regimes and informing their judgements on what constitutes good performance. In particular, where appropriate, they will need to:
Review inspection and auditing methods and performance indicators, to ensure that they meet the duty and enable judgements to be made as to whether public authorities are complying with the duty.
Advise public authorities on developing effective gender equality schemes, action plans and monitoring arrangements.
Identify and disseminate best practice in respect of the gender equality duty.
Improve research surveys and data collection in order to provide useful data for public authorities to consider when analysing their performance of the duty, and to improve accountability to the public.
What happens when public authorities fail to meet the gender equality duty
The EOC and CEHR have formal powers of enforcement which they will use if they have evidence that public authorities are not complying with the duty. Before undertaking either of the enforcement procedures set out below, the Commissions would expect to engage in informal correspondence and communication with the public authority concerned, giving non-compliant authorities the opportunity to comply without proceedings.
The procedures set out below are likely to be used when preliminary means of communication have resulted in no or insufficient progress.
Enforcement of the general and specific duties via compliance notices
S76D SDA (margin note)
If a public authority does not comply with its specific duties, it could face enforcement action by the EOC (and subsequently from late 2007 by the CEHR).
S76D of the Sex Discrimination Act empowers the EOC to serve a compliance notice on an authority that is failing to comply with the specific duties. The notice will state that the authority must meet its duties and tell the EOC within 28 days what it has done to comply with the duties.
In the compliance notice, the EOC can also require the authority to give it written information of steps taken for the purpose of complying with the duty. The notice will state the time by which the EOC should receive the information (which should not be later than the end of the three months, beginning with the day on which the notice is served). The EOC cannot ask for more information than a public authority would have to provide during High Court proceedings. For example, information subject to legal privilege, such as correspondence between a public authority and its solicitor relating to a discrimination claim brought by an individual against the authority, would not have to be provided.