The Equality Act imposed certain duties on the public sector; these are often referred to as the PSED – or Public Sector Equality Duties. There are two types of Duties:
- the General Duty which applies to all public bodies; and
- Specific Duties which apply to some public bodies
The essence of the new PSED is to embed equality practice into the framework of the public body. That equality and diversity is no longer an adjunct or specialism that is somehow tagged on at the end of a project, but an issue that is part of the normal consideration in any project and understood by all those involved.
Sounds simple, and indeed the EHRC have produced good quality advice and guidance which should help.
The problem is one of action. From 2011 Public Bodies are meant to have included equality and diversity conditions in the tender process from where appropriate. But any cursory glance through the OJEC Buying Journals will show that there is not much evidence of it having been implemented at all by the main departments.
Now it might sound strange but this does business no favours. Many businesses are ahead of the game. They have taken the issue seriously reviewed their processes, trained their staff and even imposed equality and diversity requirements through their supply chain. They should be in a good position, indeed a favourable one, when it comes to bidding for public sector work. But that investment and that good practice is wasted if the public sector does not fulfil their own obligations.
Passing legislation that provides a clear indication of what is necessary is to be applauded but Ministers waste private sector time and money if they then fail in their own obligations. It seems disingenuous to maintain the line that business needs to be competitive and grow, while allowing the public sector to fail in its duties and put responsible businesses at a disadvantage.