1. Define the aims of the policy
At the beginning of an EQIA, it is important to spend time determining the aims of the policy. This is the foundation stage in the development of an EQIA and should therefore be afforded due attention. The policy aim is the focal point defining the public authority´s intended outcomes, in terms of results and visible effects ultimately on members of the public, and will guide the subsequent development of an EQIA.
2. Consider available data and research
Public authorities should consider how they will collect information which will enable them to make a judgment on the extent of impact on the nine equality categories. (religious belief, political opinion, race, age, gender, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, people with dependants or without). The Commission encourages public authorities to work collectively on this.
For example authorities operating within the education or health and social services sectors may wish to work together both to ensure the most effective and efficient use of public resources and to access the optimum information. Likewise, information available within the public sector should be made available to those likely to be affected by policies to enable them to be fully informed of the basis on which decisions are made. Further guidance is available on page 11 of Practical Guidance on Equality Impact Assessment (pdf, 396Kb)
NI Executive guide
The NI Executive's, ‘Practical Guide to Policy Making In Northern Ireland’ provides advice for those working on developing or reviewing policy to ensure that policy is evidence-based, focused on outcomes, forward looking, ‘joined up’ and meets Northern Ireland requirements.
Section 75 data signposting guide
We have produced a new guide which provides signposts to Section 75 information sources, to assist those working in this area to ensure that their policy making is evidence based and complies with their Section 75 requirements in this regard. The guide was developed in partnership with NISRA and aims to be a starting point for those policymakers who are not sure where to look for Section 75 information relevant to the policy/decision they are equality assessing or monitoring.
3. Make an assessment of impacts
The authority must use the information gathered to decide whether there is, or is likely to be, a differential impact, whether direct or indirect, upon the relevant group (or groups).
If an adverse effect on any of those groups can be identified, policy makers will need to assess whether the policy is unlawfully discriminatory taking into account that some policies are intended to increase equality of opportunity by requiring or permitting affirmative or positive action, or action to redress disadvantages. They will then have to decide how to ensure that the public authority acts lawfully. Even if the policy is not unlawful, policy makers need to consider what to do in light of the adverse impact identified.
4. Other factors to consider
- Consideration of measures which might mitigate any adverse impact; and
- alternative policies which might better achieve the promotion of equality of opportunity.
The consideration of mitigating measures and alternative policies is at the heart of the EQIA process. Different options must be developed which reflect different ways of delivering the policy aims. The consideration of these measures is intertwined with the consideration of alternative policies. Mitigation can take the form of lessening the severity of the adverse impact.
Ways of delivering policy aims which have a less adverse effect on the relevant equality category, or which better promote equality of opportunity for the relevant equality category, must in particular be considered. Consideration must be given to whether separate implementation strategies are necessary for the policy to be effective for the relevant group. Further guidance is available on page 30 of Practical Guidance on Equality Impact Assessment (pdf, 396Kb)
5. Consult on the actual impact of existing policies and the likely impact of proposed policies
An equality impact assessment requires consultation which must be carried out with relevant interest groups as well as the Equality Commission. This includes other public bodies, voluntary, community, trade union and other groups with a legitimate interest in the matter. Consultation should also include those directly affected by the policy to be assessed, whether or not they have a personal interest. Consultation should be timely, open and inclusive.
6. Decision by public authority & publication of report on results of EQIA
The legislation requires that in making any decision with respect to a policy adopted or proposed to be adopted by it, the public authority shall take into account any EQIA and consultation carried out in relation to the policy. A commitment to this is included within Equality Schemes. It is therefore essential that the public authority fully complies with this commitment.
Clear evidence of the consideration of mitigation of impacts must be apparent, and details of mitigation and plans for its implementation must be included in the final recommendations presented during decision making. Justifications must be given if these alternatives have not been accepted.
The law requires public authorities to publish a report on the results of EQIA. The equality scheme must detail both how and where the report on EQIA results will be published.
7. Monitoring for adverse impact in the future and publication of the results of such monitoring
A system must be established to monitor the impact of the policy in order to find out its effect on relevant groups. The results of ongoing monitoring must be reviewed on an annual basis. The public authority is required to publish the results of this monitoring. And they must be included in the public authorities´ annual review on progress to the Equality Commission. The Equality Scheme must specify how and where such monitoring information will be published. It is therefore essential that monitoring is carried out in a systematic manner and that the results are widely and openly published.
If the monitoring and analysis of results over a two year period show that the policy results in greater adverse impact than predicted, or if opportunities arise which would allow for greater equality of opportunity to be promoted, the public authority must ensure that the policy is revised to achieve better outcomes for the relevant equality groups.