A new look for the Public Sector Equality Duty?

Done right, this will help public bodies make equality a core consideration in their every-day business, rather than something one person in an organisation has to think about once every four years.   In short, our point is that if PSED is made fit for purpose, reporting does not need to be onerous.

The public sector equality duty (PSED) is the key lever for gender mainstreaming in policymaking in Scotland. As mainstreaming fans will know, Engender and other equality stakeholders have been advocating for a review of the Scottish Specific Duties (SSDs) of the PSED, which is now happening.

At present the SSDs are not fit for purpose in embedding equality at the heart of public sector work, supporting public bodies in fulfilling their obligations, and ultimately better enabling equality and fulfilment of rights for women and others oppressed groups. So while we were really pleased when the review was announced, we were disappointed that the current proposals are far from ambitious enough. We’ve been working this year to push the Scottish Government to go much further with the review, so the Public Sector Equality Duty can actually fulfil its potential as something which pushes, and supports, public bodies to actually achieve better outcomes for women and people with protected characteristics.

We’re really concerned that the focus of the review has often felt like the simplification of the process - addressing concerns the ‘perceived bureaucracy’ of complying with the duty, rather than looking at what the duty is actually trying to do. We need better mainstreaming and more capacity building, not an overhaul of the duty which turns it even more of a box-ticking exercise. In light of the re-entrenchment of women’s inequality that has been brought by Covid-19, particularly for women who experience multiple discrimination, this need for vastly improved equality mainstreaming is even more pressing.

Done right, the Scottish Specific Duties will help public bodies make equality a core consideration in their every-day business, rather than something one person in the organisation has to think about once every four years. In short, our point is that if PSED is made fit for purpose, reporting does not need to be onerous.

Earlier this year we joined with 25 other equality organisations to call for the co-production of revised regulations – making sure PSED is more than just a box-ticking exercise. You can read this letter here. Of course we also responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation, where we called for an overhaul of Equality Impact Assessments (EQIAs) which hold the potential to transform policymaking and deliver real change for women and girls in Scotland but at present are simply not working. We want to see EQIA actually embedded in the policy design process at an effective point, and supported by a comprehensive programme of capacity building on all equality strands and on the process of intersectional gender mainstreaming. This requires a well-resourced EQIA improvement programme and that addresses the fundamental weaknesses with the current system.

Crucially, as part of Engender’s work to respond to the PSED review, we also worked with Professor Nicole Busby - Professor of Human Rights, Equality and Justice at Glasgow University’s School of Law, and an expert in equality law - to create our own draft regulations for the Scottish Specific Duties of PSED. These draft regulations not only fix the problems we have identified with the current regulations, but also propose additional duties on intersectional data gathering and gender budget analysis, on capacity building, and on the prevention of sexual harassment.

This is a really exciting move for us; not only pointing out the flaws in PSED (not that we don’t love doing that), but providing our own draft regulations which, if accepted, would mean that this duty might actually do what it is meant to in working towards meaningful equality for women and girls.

For those of you who love to dig into the detail - a fair proportion of our readers, we reckon - we’ve produced a table which sets out all of the changes we have made between the current regulations and our own proposed regulations. You can see it here.

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Engender response to the Scottish Government’s Equality Evidence Strategy 2023 to 2025 consultationEngender response to the Scottish Government’s Equality Evidence Strategy 2023 to 2025 consultation Engender welcome this opportunity to respond to this consultation on Scottish Government’s Equality Evidence Strategy 2023-25.

Seventh periodic report of the government of the United Kingdom on measures taken to give effect to ICESCR - Engender Shadow ReportSeventh periodic report of the government of the United Kingdom on measures taken to give effect to ICESCR - Engender Shadow Report This is Engender's shadow report to the 7th periodic report of the UK Government to the UN's Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

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