The UK’s central legislation on equality is the Equality Act 2010, a modernised and harmonised version of previous equality and anti-discrimination legislation. The act takes an intersectional approach covering a number of equality strands, creating an overall approach within which all gender-equality policies are subsumed, and within which methods and tools exist to mainstream the gender-equality agenda in the work of public bodies. Thus, the focus in the UK has shifted from gender equality to a concept of equality spanning all dimensions of discrimination.
This is manifested in the change in terminology: the word ‘equality’ is used instead of ‘gender’. For example, gender impact assessments have been replaced by equality impact assessments.
The Equality Act 2010 introduced the new PSEDs, replacing all previous separate Equality Duties and representing a significant development for the implementation of gender mainstreaming. These are positive duties concerned with institutional change, whereby systemic and structural inequalities are deconstructed, resulting in substantive equality.
Currently, equality legislation, including gender equality, is reserved to the UK government, with possible divergence in how gender equality is framed in statements of political commitment to the advancement of gender equality. In 2010, the government published the policy document Equality Strategy – Building a Fairer Britain, targeting businesses, the voluntary sector and wider civil society to create equal opportunities and embed equality considerations into government policies and programmes.
As for the States level, Wales and Scotland are covered by the Equality Act, and thus have mainstreaming arrangements and methods in place such as the PSEDs for Wales and Scotland respectively, whereas Northern Ireland has its own structures, arrangements and methods, notably its Gender Equality Strategy and the Statutory Duty on Equality mandated by Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act (1998).