Disputes about equality and discrimination
The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) deals with all complaints of discrimination in employment and access to goods and services. These complaints come under the following equality legislation:
- The Employment Equality Acts 1998–2015, which prohibit discrimination at work and cover discrimination about: recruitment and promotion; equal pay; working conditions; training or experience; dismissal; and harassment, including sexual harassment. You can find out more about this legislation in our document-Equality in the workplace.
- The Equal Status Acts 2000–2015, which prohibit discrimination outside the workplace, in particular in the provision of goods and services; in selling, renting or leasing property (including the "housing assistance ground") and in certain aspects of education.
There is information about employment equality and equal status, as well as a list of frequently asked questions, on workplacerelations.ie. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission also provides information to the public on equality legislation.
Victimisation is also covered by equality legislation. Victimisation occurs when a person is treated less favourably than another person because they opposed discrimination or were involved in a complaint of unlawful discrimination.
The Workplace Relations Commission also deals with complaints of discrimination on the grounds of gender under the Pensions Acts 1990–2015 in relation to occupational benefit or pensions schemes. However, it cannot deal with complaints about licensed premises and registered clubs. To make a complaint about a licensed premises or registered club you must take your case to the District Court.
The 2 methods of handling equality or discrimination disputes are mediation and adjudication.
COVID-19: You can get information about the procedures for workplace disputes during COVID-19.
When you make a complaint under equality legislation, you may be offered mediation. Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process. It is an attempt to get agreement between the people involved. At the end of mediation both sides sign an agreement which is legally binding. This means that both sides must keep to the terms of the decision. Mediation is held in private and the agreement is not published. If you do not reach an agreement through mediation you can ask for your case to be brought to investigation.
You can read more about mediation on workplacerelations.ie.
If mediation is not used or is not successful, the complaint or dispute is referred to an adjudication officer who will conduct an inquiry and issue a legally binding decision. Decisions will include one or more of the following:
- An order for equal pay or equal treatment
- An order that somebody takes a specified action.
How to make a complaint
In general, complaints under the Employment Equality Acts 1998–2015 and complaints about discrimination in pensions must be brought within 6 months. You should make your complaint using the WRC's online complaint form. The time limit can be extended by a further 6 months, but only if there is reasonable cause which prevented the complaint from being brought within the normal time limit.
To make a complaint under the Equal Status Acts 2000–2015, you must first notify the person or organisation you are making the complaint against within 2 months of the last act of discrimination. To do this, you complete ES.1 form (pdf) and send it to the person or organisation you are making the complaint against. The time limit for notification can be extended to 4 months by the Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission.
If you are not satisfied with the service provider's response, or if they have made no response within 1 month from the date you notified them, and you wish to pursue the complaint, you should use the WRC's online complaint form.
Decisions made by an adjudication officer can be appealed, to the Labour Court for employment and pensions cases, and to the Circuit Court for equal status cases. Appeals must be made within 42 days of when the decision was issued.
You can also read or download a free guide to taking an employment equality case from the Community Law and Mediation (CLM) website. CLM also offers free legal information, advice and mediation services.
Where to make a complaint