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Equality and diversity at the HFEA

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is committed to promoting equality and diversity, both as an employer, and in the carrying out of its public functions to regulate and promote good practice in the wider fertility sector.

The Equality Act 2010, which came into force on 1 October 2010, establishes a comprehensive legal framework to protect individuals with a “protected characteristic” from unfair treatment, and to advance equality of opportunity for all.

Although the Authority is not one of the public bodies listed in Schedule 19 to the Equality Act, the Authority will nevertheless be subject to the new public sector equality duty in the exercise of its public functions. From April 2011, the Authority will therefore have a duty to have “due regard” to the need to

a) eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct prohibited under the Equality Act;
b) advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a protected characteristic and those who don’t; and
c) foster good relations between persons who share a protected characteristic and those who don’t.

The protected characteristics are: age; disability; gender reassignment; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation.

The Authority is currently awaiting the guidance to public bodies on the performance of this new duty which the Equality and Human Rights Commission is due to publish in the first part of 2011.


What the HFEA is doing to promote equality

In 2006 the Authority adopted an Equality Scheme. However, the Authority intends to overhaul and update its approach to equality issues as part of its preparation for the commencement of the new public sector duty, and considered an initial preliminary assessment at the open public meeting in Cardiff on 8th December 2010.

Strategic delivery strand Action Owner
Setting standards Negotiate translation services in advance of the need for them, potentially through CQC/DH or extend the arrangements made for Opening the Register (required for clinical governance) Communications team
Setting standards Publish whistle-blowing procedure and guidance for whistle-blowers on the website Chief Inspector / Communications team / IFQ
Setting standards Update the Equality Impact Assessment form to include all the new protected characteristics Policy team
Setting standards Appoint new Board Level Equality Champion Chair
Efficiency, economy and value Update HR.net with staff language skills HR
Efficiency, economy and value Book First Aid training – to include a male member of staff HR
Efficiency, economy and value Promote equality and diversity section of Civil Service Learning and consider making completion mandatory HR
Efficiency, economy and value Equality Impact assessment to be part of the planning for the office move/s Project Manager when appointed
Efficiency, economy and value Equality Act training for members Governance and Licensing team
Efficiency, economy and value Where necessary, make contact with an Equality Adviser within DH/CQC to help provide oversight between Authority updates Governance and Licensing team

Over the coming months, and in the light of the guidance to be published by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, the Authority will be examining what it can do to embed equality considerations in every aspect of its work and what more it can do to promote equality in the sector.

In the meantime, the Authority’s Corporate Management Group (composed of senior executive managers within the organisation) has received training from external solicitors on the new legislation. Wider training on equality and diversity training is scheduled for all staff in January 2011. The Authority has also established a cross-directorate equality working group, the aim of which is to review the Authority’s existing Equality Scheme; to embed equality considerations in its everyday functions and to set measurable equality objectives.   

A revised draft of the Code of Practice Guidance Note on Treating People Fairly (Guidance Note 29) was considered by the Authority’s Compliance Committee on 1st December 2010.  The Guidance Note aims to give clinics a better understanding of their obligations under the Equality Act and to assist them in complying with their equality duties.  It is anticipated that this new guidance will come into force in April 2011 and will be distributed to all centres licensed by the Authority. 

As work in this area progresses this page of our website will be updated.  The Authority is keen to receive your input about equality and diversity issues and in particular, it is keen to hear from stakeholders and stakeholder groups with protected characteristics (for information about the protected characteristics.

For general information and guidance about equalities matters, see the extensive material published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Page last updated: 24 August 2012