The Equality Act (2010) provides the legal framework for most of our work. It:
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.
The positive action provisions of the Equality Act (2010) apply to the University both as an employer and as an education provider. S.158 of the Act says that where an employer or education provider reasonably thinks that people who share a protected characteristic:
they may voluntarily take any action which is a proportionate means of meeting the aims stated in the Act.
These aims are:
Taking positive action could help the University to achieve its objectives under the Public Sector Equality Duty.
Recruitment and promotion
Employers can take positive action measures in recruitment and promotion in order to address disadvantage, different needs and/or disproportionately low participation provided that they do not operate a blanket policy or practice of treating people with a particular protected characteristic better than others, and they appoint the best person for the job. The action they choose to take must be a proportionate means of overcoming disadvantage, meeting needs or increasing participation.
Council has approved the use of specific positive action measures in academic recruitment, including:
Faculties and departments must seek advice from their HR Business Partner, the Equality and Diversity Unit and/or Legal Services before implementing positive action measures other than those set out in official University guidance.
The University operates a wide range of targeted positive action measures to promote the participation of under-represented groups, including:
Please see the University’s Fees, Funding and scholarship page for full details of available funding opportunities.
The Equality and Diversity Unit has produced guidance on implementing positive action measures to address the disadvantage, different needs or disproportionately low participation of students. University members considering targeted measures such as outreach or restricted scholarships are advised to review this document and seek advice from the EDU.
It is never unlawful direct disability discrimination to treat a disabled person more favourably than a non-disabled person. However, it might be appropriate to take positive action measures to overcome disadvantage, meet different needs or increase participation of people with one impairment but not those with other impairments.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission provides guidance on positive action in its resources on the Equality Act (2010). These documents are available from the EHRC website (link in the right-hand menu).
A public authority must, in the exercise of its functions, have due regard to the need to:
The Act explains that having due regard for advancing equality involves:
Fostering good relations involves:
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.
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 on the Equality analysis page (link in right hand menu) to support those responsible for implementing the Duty in relation to policy and decision-making, including:
See the section on publication requirements below for more detailed guidance on annual reporting under the Equality Act, including gender pay gap reporting.
Specific duties set out the publication requirements for public bodies, including:
Publication of information
Public bodies must publish ‘information’ to demonstrate how they have had due regard to the need to:
The information must be published by 30 March each year.
It must include, in particular, information relating to persons who share a relevant protected characteristic who are:
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. Please find a link to the report in the right hand menu.
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) had to 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.
Please find a link to the Equality Objectives in the right hand menu.
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 must be published by 30 March in the following year, and must be:
Pay gaps are calculated in relation to:
See the Personnel Services website for guidance on gender pay gap reporting.