The equality impact assessment (EqIA) is a tool largely used in the United Kingdom to discourage discriminatory policies and practices. This evaluation is often based on three individual components: the effects of a project on society, the environment and health. Accordingly, the social impact assessment may review how a project or plan may influence wealth, while the environmental assessment may consider the ways in which industry influences air quality. The health impact assessment often considers how a project may hurt or benefit people and its potential for leading to new lifestyle habits.
The Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the Equality Act 2006 to protect the rights of all UK citizens. Its essential aim is to transcend boundaries that may normally exist within gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, race and disabilities contexts. Pregnancy, maternity and gender re-assignment are additional characteristics now afforded protection against discrimination. The act is both supported and enforced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which is a merged organization from three individual commissions originally protective of racial equality, equal opportunity and disability rights.
The Equality Act 2010 was born from those statutes originally developed by the 2006 act. This framework is an updated version that allegedly provides for greater accessibility to the policies and defines individuals’ rights in a more succinct manner. Parliament officials intend that, in turn, the laws are easier to comply with and can be readily applied to businesses, public bodies and individuals.
One axis that has developed from this commitment to parity is the equality impact assessment. This is an evaluation tool structured in line with the provisions of the 2010 act. The EqIA objective is to improve the quality of life for UK citizens by ensuring that individuals and corporations consider the impact of their actions on groups or communities. In this manner, negative consequences have the potential to be eliminated or minimized before actions are implemented.
An equality impact assessment is expected to be conducted before service agencies and corporations enact policies. Parliament also largely believes this should be a guideline for service delivery. Where an assessment reveals the risk of discrimination against any protected class, action should be taken to address those risks. As such, the equality impact assessment often regards three points: society, environment and health.
People may be impacted by any number of developmental projects. For example, a plan to promote commercial agriculture may lead to significant wealth changes for a segmented population, whereas building a new airport may impose housing consequences for another area. A tool known as a social impact assessment (SIA) helps identify those influences a proposed project or policy may create. Consensus generally regards this as an important component of the equality impact assessment. Although an SIA may occur in many countries and across diverse industries, the methodologies used for assessment are likely to vary considerably.
Similar to that conducted for social implications, an environmental impact assessment (EIA) examines a project’s potential for influencing nature. The EIA is often developed through study and analysis, which in turn informs policy makers and the affected public. In those instances where the EIA recognizes negative consequences to the land, such as disturbances in air quality or destruction of wetlands, alternatives to the proposed project may be provided. Changes in infrastructure, industrial development and private sector actions may each influence the environment differently, thus creating a need for the EIA in many practices. In turn, an equality impact assessment often uses the EIA to identify environmentally-appropriate policies.
Just as corporate and governmental actions may alter the environment, these same activities may also have profound impacts on human health. Transportation, for example, is often a contributor to traffic injuries, air pollution and noise. Policies designed to improve health may reduce these risks and also encourage beneficial activities like walking and cycling. The health impact assessment (HIA) is an instrument that may gauge the impact of projects and policies in diverse economic sectors. When considered as part of the equality impact assessment, the HIA may alleviate undue burdens to impoverished or underdeveloped areas.
The EqIA is largely a component of the United Kingdom Parliament. Its individual components, however, may be used throughout the globe. These segmented portions often allow policy makers to consider the whole of a project from many different angles. Such an approach may lead to changes in the culture of public decision making and a more proactive approach to the promotion of equality.