Complaining about the public sector equality duty

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

The Equality Act 2010 says public authorities must comply with the public sector equality duty. This is in addition to their duty not to discriminate against you.

You can use the public sector equality duty to challenge policies or decisions by a public authority which you think discriminate against you or disadvantage you because of who you are. One of the things you can do is make a complaint to the public authority.

Read this page to find out more about how to make a complaint about the public sector equality duty.

Make an informal complaint

If you want to make a complaint you can try to contact the public authority to talk about your problem informally first. It’s a good idea to include the following things in your conversation:

  • the decision or policy you’re complaining about

  • the names and job titles of the people involved

  • a description of how the decision or policy has affected you or is likely to affect you

  • what you want the organisation to do now - for example, apologise or review a decision or policy

  • when you expect a reply.

It’s best to keep a record of the conversation and make a note of the date. It’s also a good idea to follow up the conversation with a letter recording what was discussed.

Making a formal complaint

If the problem isn’t resolved informally, you can make a formal complaint. If there’s a complaints procedure, you need to follow this. Most public authorities have their own complaints procedures. If there’s no complaints procedure you should complain in writing.  

If you make a formal written complaint you should include the following things:

  • explain what policy or decision you’re complaining about - include any relevant dates and times and the names of anyone involved

  • say how the public authority’s decision or policy has affected you or is likely to affect you - for example, that it’s affected your health or that it’s left you homeless

  • say what you want to happen as a result of the complaint - for example, an apology or a review of the decision or policy

  • include your name and contact details

  • say when you expect a reply.

If an adviser is helping you with the complaint and you want them to advocate on your behalf, you should include their name and contact details in your written complaint. You would also need to attach a letter of authorisation signed by you to show you want the adviser to act for you.

Keep a copy of the letter and write down when you sent it. It's best to send the letter by recorded delivery, or you can ask for proof of postage.

Taking your complaint further

If your problem hasn’t been resolved or you’re unhappy with the public authority’s response to your complaint, you can contact other organisations like a regulator or an ombudsman who can look at your complaint.

You should be aware that it may take some time for your complaint to be resolved. When you make a complaint to an ombudsman it doesn't stop time running for taking legal action. If you want to take legal action you need to make sure you're not running out of time as there are very strict time limits for going to court. If this is the case it may be best to take your case to court directly.

Next Steps

Other useful information

Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)

The EASS helpline can provide advice and information on discrimination and human rights issues.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

You can find useful information about discrimination on the EHRC website at

You can also find guidance on the public sector equality duty on the EHRC website at

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