Public authorities need to consider equality in all aspects of their organisation. This includes how they plan and deliver a service, to policies on employing people, enforcing the law, buying services, approving budgets and regulating others.
Integrating equal opportunity principles and practices from the outset ensures that equality considerations are mainstreamed and built into the policy development process from the beginning, rather than being bolted on at the end. Mainstreaming can help improve methods of working by increasing a public authority’s accountability, responsiveness to need and relations with the public.
Section 75 requires public authorities to have due regard for the need to promote equality of opportunity between:
persons of different religious belief, political opinion, racial group, age, marital status or sexual orientation
men and women generally
persons with a disability and persons without
persons with dependants and persons without
The promotion of equality of opportunity entails more than the elimination of discrimination. It requires proactive action to promote equality of opportunity and encourages public authorities to take action to address inequality among the groups listed above.
Public authorities must also have regard for the desirability of promoting good relations between persons of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group. The Commission emphasises that the good relations duty embraces and extends beyond the religious / political dimension of ‘community relations’. Consideration of the needs and interests of all minority ethnic groups is also important in this context. Public authorities must recognise the inter-dependence of equality and good relations.
It should be noted that both duties have to be discharged in all circumstances.
To implement their Section 75 statutory duties, public authorities are required to submit an equality scheme to the Equality Commission. This is a statement of commitment to fulfilling their Section 75 duties. It is a plan setting out how they are going to ensure that equality and good relations are promoted in everything they do. More>
All equality schemes must conform to the Commission’s guidance. See Chapter 6 of our Guide for Public Authorities (pdf, 214kb)
Yes, the Equality Commission uses an Equality Scheme Desk Audit Form (word doc) to assess statutory requirements for equality schemes and we use the results to determine whether the schemes should be approved or not.
We have have produced a range of useful guides and templates to assist public authorities with their Section 75 obligations. For further details see the Section 75 publications.
Screening is the process of monitoring policies for any adverse impacts on the promotion of equality of opportunity and good relations and consulting with those likely to be affected. It is important that public authorities commit to screening at the start of the policy development process, rather than when the policy has been established. This helps to identify any policies that are likely to have major equality issues, and if so, they must be subject to a full equality impact assessment (EQIA).
When there is ambiguity, the public authority must consult on whether the policy should be subject to equality impact assessment and all such policies must be incorporated into the public authority’s EQIA timetable as appropriate to their priority. More>
If screening identifies that a policy has major potential to impact on equality of opportunity and good relations, then it should be subjected to a more detailed analysis - an Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA). This means if a policy shows a possible ‘adverse impact’ on any group, the public authority must consider how this might be reduced. This would include how an alternative policy might lessen this effect and serve to promote equality of opportunity.
Public authorities should allow a 12 week consultation period in order to assess the views of those who will be affected by policy decisions. This will help to raise awareness of issues and problems that policies may pose for various groups which may not otherwise be discovered. The results of all equality impact assessments must be published. More>
Strong leadership is necessary within public authorities to ensure that the Section 75 statutory duties are integrated into core business activities and put into effective and visible practice. Effective implementation should be assured by ongoing top-level commitment, allocation of necessary resources, establishment of clear lines of responsibility, effective communication and training, and a process for monitoring and ensuring progress.
Commitment to all of the requirements and recommendations in our Guide for Public Authorities should have a real and tangible impact on reducing inequalities that exist for people within Northern Ireland. More
The Equality Commission has powers (under paragraph 10 and 11 of Schedule 9 of the Northern Ireland Act) to investigate complaints that public authorities have failed to comply with their equality schemes from people who are directly affected by such failure, and we can also initiate such investigations. Read more about our investigations procedure