The Legislation


The Equality Act was introduced in 2010 to help make Britain a fairer society.

The Act places particular duties on public authorities and other bodies when exercising public functions to reflect the pivotal role they can play in dismantling inequality and driving up positive outcomes for all.

The Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED)

The Public Sector Equality Duty, also known as the general equality duty, came into force on 5 April 2011.

It covers the following protected characteristics:

  • age

  • disability

  • gender reassignment

  • pregnancy and maternity

  • race, religion or belief

  • sex

  • sexual orientation.

The general duty also covers marriage and civil partnerships, with regard to eliminating unlawful discrimination in employment.

Those bodies subject to the general duty, including national and local government, universities, colleges and NHS Boards, are required to demonstrate that they have given due regard to the need to:

  • Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and any other conduct prohibited under the Act

  • Advance equality of opportunity

  • Foster good relations

The EHRC has produced non-statutory guidance available to assist Scottish public authorities in meeting the general duty. To support the Duty’s implementation the Scottish Government issued a series of specific duties including ones on assessing impact and procurement. The impact assessment duty requires a public body to consider the impact on equality of introducing or revising policies and practices.

The Fairer Scotland Duty (FSD)

The socio economic duty (Part 1 of the Equality Act 2010), also known as the Fairer Scotland Duty [FSD], came into force in April 2018. Scotland is the only part of Great Britain where it is in force. The duty places a legal responsibility on listed public bodies in Scotland to actively consider using their functions to reduce inequalities of outcome, caused by socio-economic disadvantage, when making strategic decisions. Bodies need to be able to demonstrate how they have done this.

The public bodies covered by the FSD includes the Scottish Government, local authorities, Police Scotland and health boards. A full list of the authorities covered by the FSD is here.

    The type of decisions that the duty engages will be strategic, not routine, decisions, such as developing and adopting:

  • Policing plans

  • Housing plans

  • City Region and Growth Deal & other major investment plans

  • Transport Plans

  • National and local strategic health plans.

Interim guidance is available for public bodies on the FSD. The Scottish Government is currently developing further guidance, reflecting good practice.

Back to top