Public sector equality duty - taking legal 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.
If you think a decision or policy by a public authority discriminates against you or disadvantages you because of who you are, you may be able to use the public sector equality duty.
Read this page to find out more about how to take legal action about the public sector equality duty.
Before taking action
Taking court action can be a long and stressful process. It can also be expensive. It’s important to keep in mind that if you lose the case in court, you may have to pay the other side's legal costs which could be high.
If you’re thinking about taking court action, you should get advice from an experienced adviser - for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau.
Taking legal action
Who must comply with the public sector equality duty?
Remember, only public authorities like a school or local authority must comply with the public sector equality duty.
What court action can you take?
If you take action against a public authority because they’ve not complied with the public sector equality duty, you need to follow a special procedure called judicial review.
What’s judicial review?
Judicial review is a special procedure you can use to challenge decisions made by public authorities.
When can you use judicial review?
Judicial review can only be used against a public authority.
You can only make an application for judicial review if there are no other ways of challenging a decision - for example, if you don’t have a separate right of appeal, or you’ve exhausted your rights to appeal.
For example, if you take action against your school about a disciplinary issue there may be an appeal to a disciplinary committee. In this case you need to do this first before you make an application for judicial review.
Try to resolve the problem without going to court first
Before you take court action, you should always try to resolve your problem in other ways first - for example, by talking to the public authority or by using mediation. This is called alternative dispute resolution or ADR. If you don’t do this, it may affect the outcome of your case.
However, you should be aware that there are very strict time limits for making an application for judicial review. If you’re running out of time, it may be necessary to issue your claim at court directly. You could then ask the court for more time to consider alternative dispute resolution.
What are the time limits?
The application must be made as soon as possible and in any case within three months of the decision you're complaining about.
Where should you make your application?
Judicial review applications must be made in the High Court.
Who can make an application for judicial review?
You can make an application for judicial review if you have sufficient interest. This generally means you must be personally affected by the decision you’re taking action about. For example, if you've been refused social housing by a local authority, you could take action against the decision as you're personally affected by it.
Remember, if you want to take action because the public authority hasn't complied with their public sector equality duty you need to be someone who's protected under the Equality Act.
What remedies can the court order?
When you make an application for judicial review the court will look at how the decision was made rather than if it was the right decision.
If the court thinks the way the decision was made is wrong - for example, because the public authority didn’t properly consider its public sector equality duty, it can cancel the decision and tell the public authority to make the decision again. This is called a quashing order. The court can also give you financial compensation if you’ve suffered a loss.
Other things the court can do include:
- order the public authority to do something - this is called a mandatory order
- order the public authority not to do something - this is called a prohibiting order.
Using the public sector equality duty to support other claims
You can also use the public sector equality duty to support another claim against a public authority. For example, if a public authority discriminates against you, you can make a discrimination claim under the Equality Act. You could use the public sector equality duty to strengthen your discrimination claim.
Using a solicitor
When you have decided that you want to take legal action about the public sector equality duty, you may need further help about using a solicitor.
Can you get legal aid?
You may be able to get legal aid to help you pay for your court action. To get legal aid you need to meet the eligibility criteria. You can contact the Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) who can help you find out if you can get legal aid.
- More about help with legal costs
- You can also check if you're eligible on the GOV.UK website, at www.gov.uk
- Taking action about the public sector equality duty
- When can you use the public sector equality duty
- What's the public sector equality duty?
Other useful information
Public Law Project
For more information about how to make an application for judicial review see the Public Law project website at
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