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Chapter 1:

Overview of the gender equality duty

What this code is and how to use it


This Code of Practice (the Code) gives practical guidance to public authorities on how to meet the legal requirements of the gender equality duty.  The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has prepared and issued this Code under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, as amended by the Equality Act 2006.  The Code is expected to come into effect on April 6 2007.


Those parts of the Code which deal with the general gender equality duty in section 76A of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 apply (subject to the exceptions set out in Appendix B) to all public authorities in England and Wales and to reserved functions of public authorities in Scotland.  A similar but separate code applies to Scotland.   Those parts of the Code (primarily Chapter 3) which deal with the specific duties imposed by the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (Public Authorities) (Statutory Duties) Order 2006 (the Order) apply only to the public authorities listed in the Schedule to that Order.  This does not include authorities all of whose functions are public functions in relation to Wales.


This Code of Practice is a ‘statutory’ code and has been laid before Parliament before taking effect.  This means that the Code is admissible in evidence in any legal action under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 or the Equal Pay Act 1970, in criminal or civil proceedings before any court or tribunal.  


A court or tribunal must take into account any part of the Code that appears to them to be relevant to any question arising in the proceedings.  This includes the question of whether public authorities have breached the law.  A tribunal or court may draw an adverse inference that a breach of the law has occurred if a public authority has failed to follow relevant provisions in the Code.  If a public authority does not follow the Code’s provisions, it will need to show how it has otherwise met its legal obligations under the general duty and any specific duties.


On its own, the Code does not impose any legal obligations on public authorities.  The Code is not a complete statement of the law - only the courts can give this.  


References to the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (SDA), the Equal Pay Act 1970 (EqPA) and the Equality Act 2006 are shown in the margins.  


Where examples are used, they are intended to illustrate the ways in which different types of public authorities can comply with the duty.  They should be read in that light, and not as authoritative statements of the law.  Where examples are taken from the voluntary sector, they are intended to illustrate gender equality issues and possible means of addressing them, not to imply that those bodies are covered by the gender duty.  


The EOC will be issuing non-statutory guidance to supplement this Code, to cover particular parts of the public sector, aspects of the duty such as gender impact assessment and how the duty applies to procurement.

What is the gender equality duty?

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