Public Law

Those of you who were at Brodies’ Autumn seminar ‘All things equal’ would have heard our speakers discussing whether or not the ‘socio-economic duty’ in the Equality Act 2010 would be brought into force.

The Home Secretary must have been listening because, soon after, Theresa May announced that the government will not be bringing the duty into force and will be looking at ways to repeal the provision.

The duty would have required public sector bodies, when making strategic decisions to “have due regard to the desirability of exercising them in a way that is designed to reduce the inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage.”

This was seen by some as a step forward into socio-economic rights (with human rights law traditionally being focused on civil and political rights)… and by others as an unnecessary bureaucratic exercise. Depending on your perspective you may be relieved or disappointed. Either way, bear in mind that:

  • public bodies are still subject to ‘old’ general duties such as the Disability Equality Duty (“DED”) under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and
  • the Equality Act contains other ‘new’ general duties (which are likely to be brought into force) on discrimination in areas such as sexual orientation.

These need to be addressed when allocating scarce resources – see Christine’s earlier blog on that topic.