Equality in the workplace
The Employment Equality Acts 1998–2015 outlaw discrimination in a wide range of employment and employment-related areas. These include recruitment and promotion; equal pay; working conditions; training or experience; dismissal and harassment including sexual harassment. The legislation defines discrimination as treating one person in a less favourable way than another person based on any of the following 9 grounds:
- Gender: this means man, woman or transsexual
- Civil status: includes single, married, separated, divorced, widowed people, civil partners and former civil partners
- Family status: this refers to the parent of a person under 18 years or the resident primary carer or parent of a person with a disability
- Sexual orientation: includes gay, lesbian, bisexual and heterosexual
- Religion: means religious belief, background, outlook or none
- Age: this does not apply to a person aged under 16
- Disability: includes people with physical, intellectual, learning, cognitive or emotional disabilities and a range of medical conditions
- Race: includes race, skin colour, nationality or ethnic origin
- Membership of the Traveller community.
What is discrimination?
Discrimination is defined as less favourable treatment. An employee is said to be discriminated against if they are treated less favourably than another is, has been or would be treated in a comparable situation on any of the above 9 grounds. To establish direct discrimination, a direct comparison must be made, for example, in the case of disability discrimination the comparison must be between a person who has a disability and another who has not, or between persons with different disabilities.
Indirect discrimination occurs when practices or policies that do not appear to discriminate against one group more than another actually have a discriminatory impact. It can also happen where a requirement that may appear non-discriminatory adversely affects a particular group or class of persons.
Specific situations covered by employment equality legislation
Disability: Employers are obliged to make reasonable accommodations for staff with disabilities. This includes providing access to employment, enabling people with disabilities to participate in employment including promotion, and training.
Pregnancy: Pregnancy-related discrimination is discrimination on the ground of gender and includes recruitment, promotion and general conditions of employment. Women who are pregnant or have recently given birth are also protected under maternity protection and unfair dismissals legislation.
Equal pay: Employment equality legislation provides for equal pay for like work. Like work is defined as work that is the same, similar or work of equal value. It is one of the terms that must be part of the contract of employment as a result of laws passed by the Dail. A claim for equal pay can be made on any of the 9 grounds listed above.
Harassment including sexual harassment that is based on any of the 9 grounds is a form of discrimination in relation to conditions of employment. Bullying at work which is linked to one of the 9 discriminatory grounds above comes under employment equality legislation.
Victimisation: Under employment equality legislation you are protected against victimisation if you bring a claim or are involved in a complaint of unlawful discrimination against your employer. This means that your employer may not penalise you by dismissal, unfair treatment or an unfavourable change in your conditions of employment.
Enforcing your rights
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Workplace Relations Commission are separate organisations that work to ensure equality at work.
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is a statutory body set up to provide information to the public on human rights and equality legislation. It can, at its discretion, provide legal assistance to people who wish to bring claims to the Equality Tribunal. You can find the booklet, Your Employment Equality Rights Explained on ihrec.ie
The Workplace Relations Commission is the place to bring a discrimination claim under the Employment Equality Acts 1998–2015 using the online complaint form available on workplacerelations.ie. It investigates or mediates claims of unlawful discrimination under equality legislation.