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Services: Which rules apply?

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Last updated 2nd January 2011.

Most services fall within the rules on ‘services to the public’. However there are special rules for a few individual types of case, and this page points up where special rules apply.

Services to the public

As a general rule, anyone concerned with the provision of goods, services or facilities to the public, or to a section of the public, is within the rules on services to the public. This will cover most services.

To give just a few examples, this includes shops, restaurants, banks central and local government (so far as they provide services to the public, eg libraries, rubbish collection), medical services, churches, and advisers (lawyers, accountants, debt counselling etc). There is a limited exemption for transport.

Rules on services to the public…

Education and related services

As regards pupils and students (actual or prospective), schools and providers of further or higher education (including universities) are generally covered by the separate education rules in Equality Act Part 6. This extends to education but also to other services such as outings.

Bodies awarding qualifications are also normally covered by special provisions in Equality Act Part 5 or 6. See below Exams.

However the ‘rump’ of education and related services which are not covered by these special rules will generally be covered as ‘services to the public’ falling within Equality Act Part 3, for example:

  • provision by a school of information to parents;
  • a privately run ‘business college’ which offers computer courses to the public
    (Services Code from para 11.39).

See the Equality Act rules on schools and further and higher education providers for more detail.


Bodies awarding qualifications are also normally covered by special rules in Equality Act Part 5 or 6:

What is the difference between those various rules on exams?

  • The most limited rules from the point of view of a disabled claimant (though they nevertheless give very substantial protection) are the rules on trade/professional qualification bodies, covering professional exams. Here the question whether a particular competence standard should be applied can be challenged only by way of a claim for ‘indirect discrimination’. The body then needs to show the standard is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. Otherwise, as regards the process for assessing competence standards, the reasonable adjustment duty and other types of Equality Act claim can apply.
  • As regards universities, the question whether a particular competence standard should be applied can also be challenged though other types of EqA claim (including discrimination arising from disability), except that the reasonable adjustment duty does not apply. However, the reasonable adjustment duty (and other claims) can apply to the process of assessing the standard.
  • For exam boards awarding GCSEs, A-levels etc, the reasonable adjustment can apply even to competence standards themselves. However, regulations create specific exceptions which say that particular things cannot be adjusted.

Public authority functions

The rules on ‘services to the public’ only apply where there is a provision of goods, services or facilities. But some functions of public authorities do not involve a ‘service’ to the person, for example if a police officer arrests someone, or a local authority enforces a council tax charge.

However, since December 2006, discrimination in carrying out public authority functions is also covered by the legislation, under separate but similar rules.

Rules on public authority functions…

‘Associations’, including private members’ clubs

Because the rules on ‘services to the public’ only apply where the services or facilties are being provided to the public (or to a section of the public), they do not apply where admission to membership is regulated by the association’s rules and involves a selection process..

However, since December 2006 private clubs of this sort are subject to the legislation if they have 25 or more members. The Equality Act calls them ‘associations’ and they are covered by specially adapted rules, now in Part 7 Equality Act (Chapter 12 of the Services Code).

The special rules on private members’ clubs do not apply if an organisation merely requires members of the public to pay a fee to join, without any form of selection. An example would be a nightclub or a gym, even if it calls itself a ‘club’, or refers to customers as ‘members’ (Services Code para 12.6). This is a provision of services to the public, and accordingly the general rules on that in Part 3 Equality Act will apply.

Rules on Associations…


There are rules in Part 4 Equality Act relating to those selling, letting or managing property. I don’t deal with them on this website.

However, booking rooms in hotels or guest houses is not covered by the ‘premises’ rules and will normally be ‘services to the public’ (para 3.25 Services Code).

Employment services

‘Employment services’ are covered by separate rules within the employment section of the Equality Act. Claims go to the Employment Tribunal.

Broadly, employment services include vocational guidance or training services, services designed to assist people to find or keep jobs or establish themselves in self-employment, and services for supplying employers with people to do work.

Training by the employer is not covered (that is within the normal employment provisions), nor is training which falls within the education provisions of the Equality Act such as by universities and further education colleges. As regards training, the Employment Code para 11.60 gives as examples of employment services: “providing classes on CV writing and interviewing techniques, training in IT/keyboard skills, providing work placements and literacy and numeracy classes to help adults into work.”

Rules on employment services…

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