Treating people equally does not always mean treating people exactly the same.

The Equal Opportunity Act allows for schemes and undertakings (also called 'special measures') to help particular groups. This includes people of a particular:

  • disability
  • race
  • age
  • sex
  • marital status
  • sexual orientation
  • intersex status
  • gender identity.

They can also assist pregnant women and people with caring responsibilities.

Special measures can be set up in any area of public life covered by equal opportunity laws.

Schemes and undertakings

A scheme should:

  • have a clear, pre-determined aim or outcome for the benefit of a particular disadvantaged group
  • have reasonably developed guidelines
  • be ongoing.

An undertaking can:

  • be a discrete project for the benefit of a particular disadvantaged group
  • have limited scope or be a "one off"
  • have fewer guidelines
  • have an end point.

How to get special measure status

You do not usually need to apply or get approval for a scheme or undertaking - it will generally be covered by an existing exemption in the Equal Opportunity Act 1984.

If it does not fit within an existing exemption in the Act you may be able to apply for a temporary exemption.

If you aren’t sure if your scheme or undertaking is a special measure, contact us for advice.