The Equality Commission has been given a wide range of powers and responsibilties. These include:
We can provide advice and assistance to people who believe they have been discriminated against on the grounds of their:
- ethnic or national origin, including being an Irish Traveller
- religious belief or political opinion
- sex (includes pregnancy & pay)
- married status
- sexual orientation; or
Assistance by the Commission ranges from simply giving advice to arranging for legal representation in some cases. We can also take legal action against individuals and organisations in some circumstances, for example, if they have published a discriminatory advertisement.
The Commission does not decide whether discrimination has in fact occurred; this is for an independent industrial tribunal or court to establish. Further information can be found in Your Rights.
The Commission has a wide range of powers to ensure compliance with the legislation, including powers of enquiry and investigation.
One of our key aims is the promotion of affirmative/positive action to bring about greater equality in employment and the wider society. As a result of our investigations we can effect changes in policies and practices, where necessary through the use of non-discrimination notices, legally binding agreements or legally enforceable directions in some cases.
Fair employment legislation also places additional rules on employers with regard to registration, monitoring and review of employment composition and practices. We have a range of powers to audit these employer duties.
The Commission combines its enforcement powers with action to promote and encourage good equal opportunities practice. We provide information, advisory and training services to assist employers, trade unions, service providers, non-governmental organisations and others. We can also offer an information and library service to all of these groups and to students, the media and the general public. Please contact us on 028 90 900 890 to make an appointment.
The Commission issues publications and Codes of Practice which provide guidance and set standards for fairness and equality in areas such as employment, equal pay, housing and the provision of goods, facilities and services.
The Commission also initiates public education campaigns to raise awareness of equality rights, and works in partnership with others to help build a more equal society.
To provide reliable information and inform the debate on equality issues, we undertake research and commission or financially support research undertaken by others.
Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 places significant duties on public authorities regarding how they carry out their functions and deal with the general public. These duties relate to the promotion of equality of opportunity on grounds of age, marital status, disability, political opinion, race, religious belief, sex, sexual orientation, and whether or not people have dependants; and promoting good relations between people of different racial groups, religious belief or political opinion.
These duties on public authorities include the production and review of Equality Schemes, conducting equality impact assessments and including consultation as an integral part of the policy-making process.
The Commission has also been given powers and responsibilities to oversee the effectiveness of the duties including the approval of equality schemes, investigating complaints and giving advice to public authorities and others.
The Commission monitors the way that Northern Ireland´s laws are working and makes recommendations to Government on ways in which they can be improved.