Research carried out by Dr Hazel Conley into the Equality Act 2010 has influenced the policy and practices of five local authorities, trade unions’ priorities and strategies and public policy promoting social justice and public debate.
The Equality Act 2010 was the first major reform to equality legislation in the UK since the 1970s, bringing together more than 100 pieces of existing legislation and including innovations which sought to change the legal definition of equality and how it works in practice.
The Act had a difficult start as its enactment coincided with a change of government and the global economic crisis. The new government decided to review some of the most important and controversial provisions within the legislation, and this decision so close to its enactment gave little time for equality groups to interpret the limited information available.
In a series of projects Conley examined the two most innovative aspects of the Act: the Public Sector Equality Duty designed to properly integrate equality into public authorities, and the Dual Discrimination provisions; both were under review by the government at the time in December 2013.
Output from the projects included a framework to help those with responsibilities for equality to use in developing the policies and strategies needed to meet the new requirements and a report for Acas on the trade union representation of workers facing dual discrimination at work.
The research sets out the underlying policy and public service guidelines and the best practice for integrating what had been separate duties on race, disability and gender, plus the new religion, sexuality and age provisions. All five case study local authorities adopted the framework. The research has made a significant contribution to enabling trade unions to pursue equality issues more effectively on behalf of their members. It has also helped voluntary sector organisations that are using the public sector equality duties to pressure local authorities to improve their practice.
Conley’s analysis has informed public debate and been important in assessing the impact of the Act. Conley has presented the research findings and outlined how unions can take up equality issues with employers in a range of seminars. These seminars have involved trade union workplace representatives from the local government sector as well as the banking and finance sector, a sector known for its poor record on equality and diversity practice.
You can find the Acas report here.