Building block 1: Senior level commitment and engagement

Backing from senior leadership is required to ensure that staff undertaking EQHRIAs are effectively supported to carry out robust and meaningful assessments and that action is taken to implement findings.


Reflections on the importance of senior level commitment and engagement from pilot: 

“It’s essential for the whole organisation to be bought into it but clearly there’s a major political and managerial role… you’ve got to be visible, you’ve got to be committed to it you have to make sure you’re investing the time and the resources in teams and employees and also use it thoroughly, and regularly, at the start of service design processes.” David Martin, Chief Executive, Renfrewshire Council

 “It is important that the senior officers within the council are comfortable with the approach because many of the changes that are getting made will be getting put up in their name for councillors to be able to make decisions on.” Paul Vaughan, Senior Manager, Fife Council

Why is senior level commitment and engagement important?

The business case

EQHRIAs have the potential to positively transform decision making processes across organisations so that they promote equality and human rights outcomes as well as avoiding potential violations and legal challenge. This will only happen if senior management commit to producing robust and meaningful EQHRIAs and engage with the reports that are produced as a result.

Senior managers need to recognise that integrating equality and human rights into governance, policy and decision-making structures will help to:

  • Achieve better outcomes for people- Equality and human rights are core to achieving national and local performance outcomes which aim to improve the quality of life and opportunities for all people across Scotland.

  • Improve performance- The consideration of human rights and equality issues will assist in improving performance in delivering high quality public services as efficiently, effectively and economically as possible as they will ensure they are responsive to peoples’ needs at the point of delivery.

  • Demonstrate accessibility and accountability- Where equality and human rights are assessed, based on evidence and the meaningful involvement of communities, stronger relationships will be built and it will be easier to demonstrate fairness, transparency, accessibility and accountability thereby providing public ownership and legitimacy to policy and decision making.

  • Ensure compliance with the law- Proactively taking account of human rights and equality in the exercise of an organisation’s functions will provide assurances rather than assumptions that actions are fair, not arbitrary, and that they comply with the law, preventing violations before they require redress and added expense. Public authorities have a legal duty under the Human Rights Act 1998 to act compatibly with human rights law and duties under the Equality Act 2010 to meet the public sector equality duties.

The legal case

Under the Human Rights Act 1998 all public authorities, or those whose functions are of a public nature, have a duty to act in a way that is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. This means understanding human rights and taking them into account in all day to day work. Impact assessment is one practical means of doing this.

The Equality Act (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012 introduced a specific duty on Scottish public authorities to assess the impact of applying a proposed new or revised policy or practice against the needs of the general equality duty.

The general equality duty requires public authorities, in the exercise of their functions, to have due regard to the need to:

  • Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct that is prohibited by the Equality Act 2010

  • Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a relevant protected characteristic and those who do not.

  • Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.

These requirements apply across the 'protected characteristics' of age; disability; gender reassignment; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion and belief; sex and sexual orientation and to a limited extent to marriage and civil partnership.

For further guidance on the central role elected members in Scottish local authorities can play in ensuring Scotland’s councils meet their statutory obligations under The Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012 is published by the Improvement Service and EHRC.

What are the practical considerations?

When senior managers within an organisation regularly communicate to staff that EQHRIAs are important, and that senior managers will utilise them, this will encourage those staff involved in undertaking EQHRIAs to put time and effort into the process. In order to facilitate this, organisations need to think about the following key issues:  

  • Training for senior managers: Public authorities need to consider what is required to ensure that senior managers have a commitment to and understanding of the EQHRIA process. It is particularly important that senior decision-makers (such as Chief Executives, Councillors, Chairs and Board members etc) receive adequate training which equips them for their scrutiny role and to ensure that impact assessment influences decision-making at all levels.

  • Support and commitment to the EQHRIA process: Senior managers need to take specific actions to support the EQHRIA process by ensuring:

 1.    EQHRIAs are built into organisational decision-making processes and action is taken to implement their findings (building block 2).  

 2.    Staff carrying out EQHRIAs have the expertise, training and support required in order to carry out proper assessments (building block 3).

 3.    That the combined impact of different policies is assessed (building block 8).

Pilot practice example:

In Renfrewshire council officers from across services received training on equality and human rights, senior management and corporate management teams were briefed on new impact assessment guidance including human rights, the Leadership board was also briefed and an awareness raising campaign led across the Council. An equality and human rights briefing session was delivered to elected members of the Council