Equality law and policy was historically centralised at Westminster/Whitehall level. Devolution has changed this dynamic in fundamental ways since 1998.

The Northern Ireland Act 1998 enabled the setting up of a devolved Northern Ireland Assembly. The Scotland Act 1998 set up the Scottish Parliament and Executive. The  Government of Wales Act 1998 created the National Assembly of Wales, whose powers were further extended through legislation of 2014 and 2017, creating a similar devolved powers model of devolution to Scotland; it was renamed Senedd Cymru in 2020.

Devolution has led to different trajectories in relation to equal pay and sex discrimination across the four nations of the UK. Distinct equality strategies have emerged in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, best reflected in the varying design of the specific positive equality duties in place in each of the devolved nations.

The interventionist approach to workplace inequalities in Wales is discussed by Dr Alison Parken in two reports for the Gender Equalities at Work project.

Section 75 of The Northern Ireland Act 1998 placed a statutory duty on public authorities to promote equality of opportunity across nine grounds – the first such positive duty in the UK. The Northern Ireland EOC and Fair Employment Commission were replaced with the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.