To mark International Women’s Day, we are asking supporters to challenge their councils over their adherence to equality law as it relates to women.
This action relates to two of our New Year Resolutions
- The law must work for women
- Sex matters
Councils have an obligation to work within the Equality Act 2010 and are bound by the provisions of the Public Sector Equality Duty.
The Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act came into law in October 2010 with the aim of tackling disadvantage and discrimination. You can find details and guidance on it here.
The Act created 9 protected characteristics which are protected in law from discrimination:
- gender reassignment
- marriage and civil partnership
- pregnancy and maternity
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation
The Equality Act also made legal some exemptions to allow for the provision of services, facilities and spaces on the grounds of sex. These are called ‘single sex exemptions’. Fair Play for Women have produced this explanation of the single sex exemptions.
Public Sector Equality Duty
In addition to the Equality Act, in April 2011 the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) came into force.
Government guidance states:
“[The PSED] means that public bodies have to consider all individuals when carrying out their day-to-day work – in shaping policy, in delivering services and in relation to their own employees. It also requires that public bodies have due regard to the need to:
The Equality Duty applies across Great Britain to the public bodies listed in Schedule 19 (as amended), and to any other organisation when it is carrying out a public function.”
- eliminate discrimination
- advance equality of opportunity
- foster good relations between different people when carrying out their activities
The list covers public bodies in England, Wales and Scotland and includes:
- Ministers of the Crown
- Parliamentary and devolved bodies
- Armed forces
- The BBC and some Channel 4 services
- Criminal justice
- Environment, housing and development
- Health, social care and social security
- Local government
For a comprehensive list of all bodies covered by the Duty, please click here.
We are concerned that councils are not upholding the Equality Duty in relation to the protected characteristic of sex.
Despite the efforts of some lobby groups to have single sex exemptions removed from the Equality Act, the government has committed to retaining them. We therefore want to see councils demonstrate their active compliance with equality law.
What can we do?
Contact your local councils and ask for meetings to ensure that councils are meeting their obligations under the Equality Act and Public Sector Equality Duty.
- In the first instance, you should contact your local councillors to raise your concerns.
- You should then contact the councillor with responsibility for the specific area you wish to discuss and ask for a meeting.
- You should be able to find contact addresses for all councillors on the council website
- It is always good to go to these meetings with one or two other people so that you can divide up the things you want to say as well as providing mutual support.
Consider organising a public meeting to publicise and discuss any concerns you have.
You could invite:
- a speaker from WPUK or other group campaigning for women’s rights
- the local MPs
- local equality organisations
- managers of any relevant local bodies or services
Ask a councillor to host the meeting for you at the town hall
If you need to book a room elsewhere, contact us for ideas on how to fund the cost.
What issues might you raise with the Council?
Here are some concerns we have raised in meetings with local councils as WPUK.
You may have others that you wish to raise.
- Correct use and representation of the protected characteristics
Is sex correctly listed in council policies and guidance? Are services they fund aware of their responsibilities to uphold ‘sex’ protections. See our guidance here.
- Leisure facilities
Toilets, changing rooms and some leisure activities (but also general drift to unisex facilities)
- Schools and colleges
Toilets, changing rooms and other areas where sex segregation matters (e.g. sports)
- Health and social care
Changing rooms, hospital wards, ability to request care-giver who is female
Funding of community groups, e.g. decisions to fund single sex services such as domestic violence refuges
- Local Safeguarding Children’s Board
Child protection issues for children who identify as transgender but also consideration of the impact on other children, access to CAMHS, child exploitation
- Data capture
Councils need robust data on all the protected characteristics to fulfil their duties as enshrined in the Equality Act 2010, e.g. to tackle sex-based discrimination
Let us know how you get on with your meeting so we can build a picture of activity and progress nationally.
1st March 2019