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Equality in procurement - don't get left behind

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission hosted an interesting webinar today with examples from representative public bodies on how you can actually embed the Public Sector Equality Duty into procurement activity.

We know that equality, diversity, and other drivers like social value are becoming more important in procurement. As bid people we need to think about what public sector organisations need to meet their Duty translates into what we may well be asked to do and demonstrate.

Equality symbols and action

So what is the Public Sector Equality Duty?

There are three main elements:

  1. eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct prohibited by the Act

  2. advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it

  3. foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.

What is important to understand is that the public sector need to do more than just be neutral, they need to think about how they advance equality and reduce tensions.

What does that mean for bidders?

We should expect to see some of the following from procurements:

  • Different emphasis depending on the service you will be delivering - employment services or provision of information will need more emphasis on equality of delivery than say an audit service.

  • The most important procurements may flow the Duties down.

  • The biggest programmes may ask for a dedicated EDI representative from each supplier that will be responsible for monitoring, reporting, and working with the customer throughout delivery.

  • More explicit definitions of what protected groups are critical for that particular procurement - don't assume your great work with a disabled adults group is relevant if they want to improve services to impoverished children. If they don't get explicit, maybe you want to ask.

  • You will need to help them advance equality, not just not be discriminatory - what can you do above and beyond the standards for your sector (beat the competition)?

  • Some organisations will have standard evaluation weighting on social value (eg 20% on all tenders) and may even set out the behaviours they expect from you.

  • Expect to have to actually demonstrate what you will do and how you will do it - bland commitments are not good enough. You may need a plan for exactly how you will deliver, measure, and improve.

  • Specialists in equality may be part of the evaluation team to score the relevant responses. Specialists don't tend to like vague language and commitments.

  • Your competitors may already be accrediting themselves in this area.

Don't get left behind. Start thinking about the implications for your company and the services you offer, if you have not done so already.


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