Working with the Public Sector

Working with the Public Sector Commission on measures intended to achieve equality

The Public Sector Commission (PSC) and the Equal Opportunity Commission worked on the content for a PSC circular, with the aim of ensuring that exceptions under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 are easily understood, using practical examples to assist public sector employers when advertising vacancies or putting in place employment-based policies.

The result was the Public Sector Commissioner’s Circular ‘Measures to achieve equality in human resource management’, released in June 2018, and supported by the guideline ‘Employing for diversity – equal opportunity in public employment’, co-badged with the Equal Opportunity Commission.

The Equal Opportunity Act 1984 provides for “measures intended to achieve equality” which are considered exceptions.

These exceptions enable organisations to put aside discriminatory barriers that have prevented people with particular attributes such as their race, sex, or disability from gaining and retaining employment, receiving appropriate services, or participating fully in education.

The exceptions have been in the Act since its inception in 1985 to redress inequality. To date organisations have been reluctant to use the exceptions, perhaps for fear of being perceived as favouring minority groups. Consequently, a genuine desire to make our institutions less discriminatory has been held back by risk-averse policy decision-making.

Throughout 2018-2019, the agencies continued to meet to discuss appropriate ways to promote these measures.

Substantive equality

The Commission’s role under the Policy Framework for Substantive Equality is primarily to develop and deliver education and training courses to support agencies in understanding and addressing systemic discrimination as stated in the framework.

Throughout 2018-19, where potential issues of systemic discrimination have been brought to the attention of the Commission, the Acting Commissioner had written to and met with senior officers of the relevant agency to discuss how the issues may be addressed.

Although policy and education work in this area were held in abeyance for a significant part of the year while the renewal of the Public Sector Commissioner’s Policy Framework Circular was negotiated, the Commission’s community education and training team conducted Fair go for your clients – addressing systemic discrimination courses as part of its suite of calendar courses as well as specialised courses focused specifically on Substantive Equality in the metropolitan area.