This advice applies to England. Change country
Public sector equality duty - taking action
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. There are different things you can do - for example, you can make a complaint or you can take legal action.
Read this page to find out more about how to take action under the public sector equality duty.
Before you take action
When deciding what action to take, you’ll need to think about what you’re trying to achieve. For example, do you want an apology or things put right? You will also need to think about how quickly you need to get a result.
It’s often best to try to resolve your problem informally first. It may stop the problem getting worse and avoid the expense of taking legal action. You should, however, be aware that there are strict time limits for taking legal action. It’s therefore best to act as early as possible.
If you want to take action about the public sector equality duty, you may need to get specialist advice from an experienced adviser - for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau.
Who can take action?
You can only use the public sector equality duty to challenge a decision or policy if you're someone who's protected under the Equality Act.
What action can you take?
Write to the public authority to remind them of their duty under the Equality Act
You could write a letter to tell the public authority you think it has breached the duty. This is also a good way to get information to support your complaint or court action.
Public authorities must publish information about how they meet their public sector equality duty. To support your complaint you can ask the public authority to send you information about how they’ve complied with their duty. Public authorities must send you this information if you ask them to.
Before writing a letter to the public authority, you should:
- identify the policy or decision which has affected you - this should be clearly stated in the letter so that the public authority knows the relevant issue
- write down when you expect a reply
- consider the time limits for any other action - for example, making a complaint or taking legal action.
You can also ask for more information by making a Freedom of Information request. If you make a Freedom of Information request the public authority must reply to you within 20 days.
If you think you’ve been discriminated against, you can ask the public authority for information about your treatment.
Make a complaint
If you want to make a complaint you can try to contact the public authority to talk about your problem informally first. If the problem isn’t resolved informally, you can make a formal complaint.
If your problem hasn’t been resolved or you’re unhappy with the public authority’s response to your complaint, you can take your complaint to the ombudsman.
Contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission
You may be able to refer your complaint to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. As part of their enforcement powers, the Commission can take action against a public authority if they've failed to comply with the public sector equality duty.
However, you should be aware that if you make a complaint to the Equality and Human Rights Commission 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 strict time limits for going to court.
Taking legal action
If you decide to take court action you should get advice from an experienced adviser - for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau.
If you take court action against a public authority about their public sector equality duty, you need to follow a special procedure called judicial review.
Judicial review applications must be made as soon as possible and in any case within 3 months of the act you're complaining about.
You can also use the public sector equality duty to support another claim against a public authority - for example, a discrimination claim or an appeal against a benefit or housing decision.
- Complaining about the public sector equality duty
- Taking legal action about the public sector equality duty
- When can you use the public sector equality duty?
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
For more information about the EHRC's enforcement powers go to
Freedom of information request
For more information about how to make a Freedom of Information request go to