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New Equality Duty May Require Publishing of Equality Data

A new government consultation on the General Equality Duty is asking whether publishing equality performance data will increase accountability to the public. According to the plans public bodies that are expected to deliver the new Equality duty (those employing 150 or more) will be expected to publish annual data on how they are performing. This will enable the individuals to hold public bodies to account should they significantly underperform on their equalities obligations.

The General Equality Duty will come into force into April 2011 and will unify current public sector equality duties in relation to gender, race and disability duties with new age, religion and belief, sexual orientation and gender reassignment equality duties. In a government press release the Government Equalities Office claims “The new approach marks an end to top down targets and box ticking bureaucracy.”
 
The consultation also asks if it should remove equality criteria from the procurement process. Under new plans public bodies will source suppliers as they see fit and will not expect suppliers to meet any equality standards. Currently potential suppliers to the public sector need to satisfy questions around their own approach to diversity and equality. It is open to debate how effective this current requirement is, though the idea in principal does suggest a huge incentive for potential suppliers to focus on their own equality and diversity approach.

Launching the consultation, Lynne Featherstone said:
 
“Equality is central to delivering the fair and more efficient public services that support a fairer society. However, in the past equality has too often become a byword for box-ticking and bureaucracy, with public bodies focusing on red tape rather than results.
 
“The new Equality Duty will change this – instead of the Government imposing top-down targets and bureaucratic processes on organisations, we will require them to publish data on their equality results in their services and their workforce, empowering the public by giving them the information they need to hold organisations to account.
 
To view the General Equality Duty consultation documents and have your say on the proposals, visit http://equalities.gov.uk/news/specific_duties_consultation.aspx

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