The Equality and Human Right Commission has launched a practical guide to help promote fairness and transparency when put making difficult financial decisions

With the impending spending review, government departments and public authorities at both the national and local level will be faced with the task of administering cuts. The guide launched by the Commission outlines what is expected of decision makers and others inorder to comply with the public sector equality duties.

The legislation requires that government departments and local authorities have ‘due regard’ to the need to eliminate discrimination and promote equality with regard to race, disability and gender as well as promote good relations, in particular tackle prejudice and promote understanding.

When this is applied in practice, it means that they must assess the equality impact of proposed changes to policies, procedures or practices, such as decisions which result from a desire to make savings. This could include decisions such as reorganisations and relocations, redundancies and service reductions programmes.

The law does not prevent government officials from making difficult decisions. Nor does it stop them from making decisions that may affect one group more than another. The law simply requires that such decisions are made in a fair, transparent and accountable way, considering the needs and the rights of different members of the community. Where decisions are found to have a disproportionate impact on a particular group, authorities must consider what actions can be taken to avoid or mitigate the unfair impact.

The guidance goes on to highlight that not only is this approach a legal requirement, it’s also a positive opportunity for officials to ensure they take fair decisions in an open and transparent way which will stand up to external scrutiny.

The guidance will also be helpful to voluntary and community groups, trade unions and individuals in helping them hold decision makers to account.

Helen Hughes, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Right Commission said.
“As we approach the Spending Review, we know all public bodies will be making difficult decisions. This legislation is not designed to prevent reductions in public expenditure. Its role, and the Commission’s role as a regulator tasked with monitoring and enforcing the legislation, is to ensure that fairness and transparency are at the heart of decisions”