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Duty to Promote Equality – Quick Start Guide


Some organisations have a statutory duty to promote Equality. This page provides a summary of what this means in practice.


Protected Charatersitics

Firstly, a reminder that the Equality Act 2010 applies to all organisations and service providers.

For example, a one person car wash, sole market trader and mobile hairdresser have essentially,the same responsibilities as a large government organisation or major UK PLC.

This shared responsibility, on the face of it, is quite straightforward. Do not discriminate (offer less favourable treatment) to people who have one or more ‘protected characteristics’. (see above).

However, the reality of this responsibility in practice, is often less than straightforward !

How do organisations typically work with the Equality Act ?

In reality, many organisations actually ‘do’ very little. They may brief their teams and produce policies / guidance notes, but the Equality Act is often only referred to when there is a problem. For example, a complaint, grievance or claim of discrimination is made to which the organisation is forced to react.   


The Proactive Duty:Diversity Training

Back as far as 2001, Parliament recognised that despite the presence of anti-discrimination laws, many organisations – including large public authorities were simply reacting to equality issues. Phrases such as ‘institutional racism’  – a then reference to the Metropolitan Police indicated a lack of proactive and embedded approaches to Equality and Diversity in a large organisation.

Various different ‘proactive’ duties were consequently introduced. This placed a responsibility on some organisations, to take steps to both eliminate discrimination and promote equality of opportunity i.e. not just wait for people to complain about it.

Example:Rather than waiting for claims of sex discrimination to establish if an organisation is promoting Gender Equality, (a Reactive Approach) the organisation performs an equal pay audit, undertakes equality impact assessments on all key policies and conducts an Equality and Diversity survey with all employees (Proactive Approach).


Who does the ‘Proactive Duty’ apply to ?Equality and Diversity Law

The current proactive duty is known as The Equality Act Public Sector Duty. As the name suggests, it applies primarily to the Public sector.

So if you are a NHS hospital, a Police Service, a Local Authority, part of the Civil Service, Ministry of Defence, a School/College etc. then the duty definitely applies to you.

The duty can also apply to some private sector companies delivering Public Sector services. For example, if a prison contracts their transport services to a private sector security company, then the duty to promote equality will apply to the private sector security company when undertaking prison duties.

The duty also applies to certain ‘hybrid’ organisations that deliver services that would ordinarily be delivered by the state or the public sector. For more information about this, please see our signposts at the bottom of this page.


What do organisations have to do to meet the Public sector duty?

It is divided into two parts: the General Duty (a sort of summary) and The Specific Duty (the specific things that some organisations must do). Not all parts apply to all organisations and the situation is different in different parts of Britain e.g. Scotland. So if you need to know the exact details, please use the signposts provided at the bottom of this page.

Summary: The General Duty:

Here is a summary of the General duty:

The General Duty













Best practice guide – The Public Sector Equality Duty:

Here is our best practice guide. This is our model and interpretation of the specific requirements of the public sector duty. It is not intended to be a definitive statement. If you need comprehensive and detailed information please visit the Equality and Human Rights Commission website where you will find a set of very detailed guidance notes.

The specific Duties













How Can McKenzie Work With You ?

McKenzie can provide consultancy, external support, expertise and our own comprehensive experience of working with all aspects of the Equality Act Public Sector Duty.

Please contact us to find out more about how we could work with you in this area.

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