Legal Framework


The Equality Act

The Equality Act (2010) provides the legal framework for most of our work. It:

  • consolidated and streamlined previous anti-discrimination legislation
  • made discrimination unlawful in respect of nine ‘protected characteristics’
  • introduced duties specific to public bodies like the University (the Public Sector Equality Duty).

The characteristics protected under the Act are:

The Act also provides for positive action to be taken to help overcome disadvantage suffered by people who share a protected characteristic. This is not the same as positive discrimination (e.g. employing someone solely because they are female) which is illegal in the UK.

Summary of the Equality Act on the Personnel Services website

Guidance on the Equality Act from the Equality and Human Rights Commission

General Equality Duty

A public authority must, in the exercise of its functions, have due regard to the need to:

  • Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Equality Act, 2010.
  • Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.
  • Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.

The Act explains that having due regard for advancing equality involves:

  • Removing or minimising disadvantages suffered by people due to their protected characteristics.
  • Taking steps to meet the needs of people from protected groups where these are different from the needs of other people.
  • Encouraging people from protected groups to participate in public life or in other activities where their participation is disproportionately low.

Fostering good relations involves:

  • Tackling prejudice, and
  • Promoting understanding between people from different groups.

The three aims of the Equality Duty apply to eight of the nine protected characteristics (age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation). Public bodies must also have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination in employment due to marriage or civil partnership status.

The General Equality Duty also applies to procurement and commissioning, regardless of the value of the contract.


Public Sector Equality Duty

The General Equality Duty replaced separate duties for race, disability and gender and extended their effect across the nine protected characteristics. The purpose of the General Duty is to integrate evidence-based consideration of equality and good relations into the day-to-day business of public authorities, including universities. Rather than simply seeking to avoid discrimination, public bodies must consider how they could make a more positive contribution to the advancement of equality.

The Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) consists of two parts:

Meeting the Public Sector Equality Duty at Oxford

The Equality Act places all public bodies under an active duty to promote equality, which includes:

A set of resources  is available to support those responsible for implementing the Duty in relation to policy and decision-making, including:

  • A PowerPoint briefing
  • Guidance on conducting equality analysis
  • A template checklist for recording the outcomes of such analysis, and
  • Template text for committee papers and minutes.

See publication requirements for more detailed guidance on annual reporting under the Equality Act, including gender pay gap reporting.

Publication requirements

Specific duties set out the publication requirements for public bodies, including:

  • Information to demonstrate compliance with the General Equality Duty
  • Equality objectives, and
  • Gender pay gap reporting.

Following a change to the regulations in 2017, the next reporting deadline will be 30 March 2018.  

Publication of information

Public bodies must publish ‘information’ to demonstrate how they have had due regard to the need to:

  • Eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under the Equality Act
  • Advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristics and persons who do not share it; and
  • Foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.

The information must be published by 30 March 2018, and at annual intervals thereafter.

It must include, in particular, information relating to persons who share a relevant protected characteristic who are:

  • Its employees (if it has more than 150), and
  • Other persons affected by its policies and practices.

The information must be published in a manner that is accessible to the public, and may be included within another published document.

The University publishes an annual Equality Report in fulfilment of this requirement.

Equality objectives

All public bodies must prepare and publish one or more specific and measurable objectives which they think they should achieve in order to meet any of the aims of the General Equality Duty. The objective(s) must be published by 30 March 2018, and at least every four years thereafter.

The University has agreed a suite of equality objectives for 2016-20, reflecting Oxford’s strategic priorities in relation to recruitment, progression and equality of opportunity.

Gender pay gap reporting

In 2017, new regulations were introduced requiring public bodies with 250 or more employees to publish detailed information on the gender pay gap. The snapshot data for 31 March 2017 must be published by 30 March 2018, and must be:

  • Accessible to all employees and to the public, and
  • Available for at least three years.

 Pay gaps are calculated in relation to:

  • Median and mean gross hourly pay gaps
  • Median and mean bonus pay gaps
  • Percentage of female and of male relevant employees who received bonus pay
  • Percentage of female and of male relevant employees in each pay quartile

See the Personnel Services website for guidance on gender pay gap reporting.