What is an Equality Act public authority?

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The Equality Act lists public authorities that must adhere to the public sector equality obligation.

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These organizations include:

  • Ministers and government departments
  • The Armed Forces
  • The NHS
  • Local authorities
  • The police
  • Schools and universities are educational institutions

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If they perform public functions, other organisations that are not included in the Act must comply with the public sector equality obligation. It can be a public-sector organisation. You can also choose to be a charity or private organization.

Charities and private organizations

Public sector equality duties also apply to charities and private organisations that perform public functions.

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This could be, for example:

  • Privatized utilities such as water companies, British Gas, and Network Rail
  • Some organisations have had to subcontract for a public function, such as a private security firm running a prison.
  • Housing associations in the performance of some of their functions as social landlords
  • Private care homes that provide care for the local authority
  • Private hospitals that provide care for the NHS.
  • Hybrid authorities are private charities and organizations that perform public functions.
  • How can you tell if an organization is performing a public function.
  • If an organisation isn’t listed in the Equality Act it’s up to the courts to decide if it’s a government authority performing a public function.
  • A public function, in general, is one that the state provides to the public such as education, prisons, or health services.

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If an organisation performs one of these activities for the state, they can be considered a public authority. It is not enough for a private organization to perform a public service to be considered a public authority.

To determine if a private organization is performing a public function, the courts will consider a variety of factors. It will examine whether the organization is:

  • Publicly funded
  • Supervised by a state regulator
  • It can exercise the powers granted to it by law
  • Taking the place of local or central government
  • Public service
  • Acting in the public interest
  • Coercive power delegated to the state

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The courts will also examine whether there is a close relationship between an organisation and a public agency.


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