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Equality and human rights: key differences in Scotland and Northern Ireland

Updating author: Tina McKevitt, consultant editor (Scotland): Gillian MacLellan, consultant editor (Northern Ireland): Gareth Walls

Future developments


Public Sector Equality Duty: The Scottish Government's consultation on the operation of the Public Sector Equality Duty in Scotland closed on 11 April 2022. The proposals include extending gender pay gap reporting to cover ethnicity and disability. The Scottish Government published its response to the consultation on 30 November 2022. The Scottish Government has indicated that the regulatory changes will come into force in 2025. 

Gender recognition: The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill proposes to change the process for applying for a gender recognition certificate in Scotland. The Bill passed Stage 3 and was awaiting Royal Assent when it was blocked by the UK Government. The Scottish Government challenged this decision, but in December 2023 the Scottish Court of Session ruled that it was lawful for the UK Government to block the Bill.  

Human rights: On 5 October 2023, the Scottish Government's consultation on a Human Rights Bill for Scotland closed. The Government is proposing to incorporate a range of economic, social and cultural rights into Scots law, so far as is possible within the limits of devolved competence. On 24 January 2024, the Scottish Government published the consultation feedback. The analysis indicates strong support for the incorporation of internationally recognised human rights  into the domestic legal framework. The Scottish Government's aim is to introduce the Bill to the Scottish Parliament in the current parliamentary session.

Northern Ireland

Gender pay gap reporting: The Employment Act (Northern Ireland) 2016, which received Royal Assent on 22 April 2016, introduces various reforms to align some of the employment laws in Northern Ireland with Great Britain, including an obligation on employers to publish gender pay gap information. Under the Act, the Northern Irish Government is required to have made new regulations to bring the gender pay gap reporting duties into force no later than 30 June 2017. However, this requirement has yet to be put into effect.