There are nine ‘protected characteristics’ defined in the Equality Act (2010) and protected from discrimination. These are: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex, and sexual orientation. The Equality Act also extends protection against harassment across most of the protected characteristics, and extends protection to employees who have been harassed by third parties such as customers, suppliers or contractors to all the protected characteristics.
Further information about the Equality Act is available here:
The public sector equality duty places a general duty on public authorities (including universities), when exercising their functions, to have due regard to the need to:
- eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under the Act
- advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it
- foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it
For the purposes of the public sector equality duty, there are eight protected characteristics (age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex and sexual orientation.) Marriage and civil partnership status is only covered by the first element of the duty (eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and other unlawful conduct), and only in relation to employment.
On 27th May 2012, a new set of statutory regulations (the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012) came into force, placing a further set of equality duties upon Scottish public sector organisations (including universities). These duties supplement the duties brought in by the Equality Act 2010, and are intended to provide a framework to help institutions comply with the general duty.
In summary, the regulations place duties on the University to:
- Publish equality outcomes by 30 April 2013, and publish a report on progress every two years.
- Publish a report on mainstreaming equality by 30 April 2013, and then every two years.
- Assess the equality impact of new and revised policies, and take account of the findings of these assessments when finalising such policies. The University also has a duty to consider what steps it needs to take to assess the equality impact of existing policies. It is for the University to decide what is proportionate in this regard.
- Publish annual employment equality data (covering recruitment, retention, development and progression of employees) as part of the mainstreaming reports.
- Publish information on the gender pay gap by 30 April 2013 and then every two years.
- Publish its policies on equal pay and occupational segregation by 30 April 2013, and then every four years. The first equal pay statement will cover gender only, and subsequent statements will also relate to disability and race.
- Build equality considerations into procurement processes for projects that are relevant to equality (notably the development of award criteria and contracts.)