The Equality Act 2010 consolidates the existing public sector duties which cover race, disability and gender into a single equality duty which is extended to age, sexual orientation, religion or belief, gender reassignment and pregnancy and maternity. It is not extended so as to cover marriage and civil partnership.
Public bodies such as local governments, the NHS and those carrying out public functions are under a duty to consider equality when making day to day decisions both in terms of service delivery and employment.
The general duty has three aims and requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to:
• Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Act.
• Advance equality of opportunity between people from different groups.
• Foster good relations between people from different groups.
The specific duties are helpfully prescriptive in that they direct public bodies on the action they are required to take in order to comply with the general equality duty. This means that they have to publish information on how the general duty is being met, set equality objectives and engage with others such as employees and unions when setting the objectives.