Equality and Diversity

The Law

The Equality Act 2010 brings together anti-discrimination and equality legislation to protect employees and service users across nine protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

Under the Act, the general equality duty requires housing providers to give “due regard” to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations where they exercise a public function.

The question of whether a registered provider is covered by the general equality duty is determined by whether they carry out any public functions. A landmark case in 2009 (Weaver vs. London and Quadrant Housing Trust) ruled that the housing provider in question was carrying out public functions, for the purposes of the Human Rights Act in the allocation, management and termination of social housing. This was based on the particular facts of the case, but it is likely to apply to most registered providers that have the same or similar functions.

The Commission for Equality and Human rights advises housing providers who are unsure whether they are carrying out public functions, to safeguard their position by ensuring they comply with the general duty in relation to those functions. Registered providers may also find it useful to seek legal advice on this matter.

Remember that the general equality duty applies only to public functions, not to everything that a registered provider does. Examples of public functions include: allocation of housing, transfer and exchange of properties, setting rent levels, complaints procedures, tenant participation, consulting and informing tenants, setting terms of tenancy, and the termination of tenancies. It also includes the establishment and application of policies and procedures regarding anti-social behaviour and parenting orders.

Meeting the general equality duty for a public function requires registered providers to identify and tackle persistent and long standing disadvantage within that function.

In Wales, regulations have been made by the Welsh Government that impose a number of specific and quite complex obligations on organisations, including, for example, the obligations referred to above to produce strategic equality plans and collate and publish detailed employee information.

The specific duties only apply to public authorities that are specifically listed in the Equality Act which does not include housing associations.  RSLs therefore do not need to meet the specific and complex obligations contained in the specific duties regulations.

Tai Pawb have published 2 new toolkits aimed at assisting housing associations to set their equality outcomes for self-assessment under the new Welsh Government risk based approach to regulation, as well as to provide practical advice and information on equality issues to practitioners in the social housing sector.  The toolkits are intended to supplement and update the original ‘Evidencing Equal Outcomes in Social Lettings’ toolkit, making the approach more user friendly and reflecting the new risk based approach to regulation in Wales. The original toolkit is also attached for your information.

The toolkits can help organisations:

  • explore the impact of customer care or repairs and maintenance policies and practices on diverse groups
  • identify and address risks and inform self-assessments required under the Regulatory Framework for Housing Associations in Wales (as amended in 2014)
  • meet the requirements of the Equality Act’s general public sector equality duty
  • improve and deliver more appropriate services
  • tackle discrimination, promote equality and lead to more inclusive and cohesive communities
  • improve customer satisfaction
  • collect evidence for Equality Impact Assessments
  • inform Equality and Diversity Action Plans

Tai Pawb also offers training on the approach used within the toolkit, to enable organisations to get the most out of using the process.