Any organisation which is exercising a public function must comply with the general Public Sector Equality Duty from April 2011. This can include Voluntary and Private Sector organisations who provide public services. The test of whether a service is a public function is generally to ask whether a public authority would have to provide it. So, for example, a charity running a care home with public funding on behalf of the local authority might be required to comply with the Duty, but a befriending project probably would not. This Duty replaces the three previous Public Sector Duties on race, gender and disability and applies to all of the protected characteristics except marriage and civil partnership.
The main provisions of the general duty state that organisations must:
- 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
Further specific duties to assist organisations in complying with the general duty are expected to be published for Scotland in April 2012.
Although the Public Sector Equality Duties do not apply directly to most Voluntary Sector organisations, they can impact what Public Sector funders expect in terms of conditions of grant, service level agreements, tenders, contracts etc. Always check whether there are specific equality related requirements attached to your funding. This is especially important in terms of equalities monitoring; if your own monitoring system doesn’t match up to the data your funder requires, you won’t be able to comply with their requirements.