Fair employment & treatment
It may be that individuals believe that they are treated less favourably than others because they are Catholic or Protestant or because they are perceived to hold either of these religious beliefs; or because they are perceived to be nationalist or unionist; or individuals may be discriminated against because they do not hold any of these beliefs or opinions. Political opinion is not limited solely to Northern Ireland constitutional politics and may include political opinions relating to the conduct or government of the state, or matters of public policy. A political opinion which includes approval or acceptance of the use of violence for political purposes in Northern Ireland is excluded. Religious belief includes those of other religions, eg, Judaism, Islam and Eastern Orthodox Christianity, as well as other faiths and philosophies such as Hinduism, Buddhism and philosophical theism, to name a few.
FETO outlines four types of discrimination:
1. Direct Discrimination is where someone is treated or would be treated less favourably than others in the same or similar position on grounds of religious belief and/or political opinion.
The best candidate at interview was not appointed to a job because of their religion, while a less able candidate of a different religion was offered the post.
2. Indirect Discrimination in employment exists where a provision, criterion or practice is applied or would apply equally to everyone but which has the effect of putting people of a particular religious belief or political opinion at a particular disadvantage when compared with others and which cannot be shown to be a proportionate means achieving a legitimate aim.
An employer whose workforce is wholly or mainly either Protestant or Roman Catholic offers opportunities for promotion to internal candidates only.
A slightly different definition of indirect discrimination applies to complaints in non-employment cases.
3. Victimisation means treating someone less favourably than others because they:
- have brought proceedings under the fair employment legislation;
- have given evidence or information in connection with proceedings brought under the fair employment legislation;
- have done anything under the fair employment legislation;
- have alleged that someone has committed an act which is unlawful under the fair employment legislation; or
- intend to do any of the above.
An employee loses overtime because s/he was a witness for a colleague in a fair employment tribunal hearing against their employer. This would be unlawful victimisation.
4. Harassment is defined as unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for a person.
Sectarian graffiti is on display in the workplace.
FETO does not specifically outlaw harassment in the field of goods, facilities and services but such treatment may amount to unlawful discrimination.
FETO also applies to the following bodies:
- those with statutory power to select employees for others;
- employment agencies;
- trade unions & employer organisations;
- vocational training providers;
- those who have power to confer qualifications;
- those for whom work is done by contract workers;
- those who have power to select office holders;
- office holders;
- barristers; and
- the employer has a place of business at an establishment in Northern Ireland;
- the work is for the purposes of the business carried on at the establishment; and
- the employee is ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland at the time when s/he applies for or is offered the employment or at any time during the course of the employment.
- in the terms in which it offers to admit a student to the establishment;
- by refusing or deliberately omitting to accept an application for admission as a student;
- in the way it affords a pupil whom it has admitted to the establishment access to any benefits or by refusing or deliberately omitting to afford such access;
- by excluding a student from the establishment or by subjecting a student to any other detriment; and
- by subjecting to harassment a person who applies for admission to the establishment as a student or a student of the establishment.
There are some exceptions to these provisions, for example, they do not apply to people who are renting out part of their own home in which they live or premises which come within the legal definition of “small premises”.
FETO also outlaws discrimination on the grounds of religious belief and/or political opinion in the provision of goods, facilities and services which are available to the public; this includes refusal of a service or the provision of a lower standard of service.
Discrimination of this kind is unlawful whether the service provided is paid for or not. Examples include:
- access to and use of any place which members of the public are permitted to enter;
- accommodation in a hotel, boarding house or other similar establishment;
- facilities by way of banking or insurance or for grants, loans, credit or finance;
- facilities for training;
- facilities for entertainment, recreation or refreshment;
- facilities for transport or travel; and
- the services of any profession, trade or business, or any local or other public authority.
Employers are also liable for acts of discrimination committed by their employees in the course of their employment whether or not the acts were done with the employer´s knowledge or approval, unless the employer can show that he took such steps as were reasonably practicable to prevent the discrimination occurring.
- employment or occupation as a clergyman or minister of a religious denomination;
- employment or occupation where the essential nature of the job requires it to be done by a person holding, or not holding, a particular religious belief or political opinion;
- recruitment of teachers in schools;
- access to training facilities in certain circumstances where the employer is taking lawful affirmative action;
- selection for redundancy in certain circumstances where the employer is taking lawful affirmative action;
- measures to encourage applications, etc. from an under-represented community where the employer is taking lawful affirmative action;
- recruitment from the unemployed;
- benefits conferred by charities on persons of a particular religious belief or political opinion;
- acts done under statutory authority in the provision of goods, facilities and services and premises;
- acts done to safeguard national security or to protect public safety or public order; and
- the 50/50 recruitment provisions which apply to the PSNI in respect of the recruitment of Police Trainees and Police Support Staff where six or more vacancies for the same post are to be filled.
Complaints are dealt with by the Fair Employment Tribunal. Where a Tribunal decides in favour of the complainant, it may award such of the following remedies as it considers just and equitable:
- an order declaring the rights of the parties;
- an order requiring the respondent to pay compensation to the complainant;
- a recommendation that the respondent takes remedial action to obviate or reduce the discrimination or the adverse effect on a person other than the complainant.
There is a right of appeal on a point of law to the Court of Appeal against a decision of the Fair Employment Tribunal.
- an order declaring the rights of the parties;
- an injunction or order; or
- damages, including compensation for injury to feelings.
There is a right of appeal to the Court of Appeal against a decision of a county court. If leave is granted, a further appeal can be made to the House of Lords.
- the adoption of practices encouraging such participation; and
- the modification or abandonment of practices that have or may have the effect of restricting or discouraging such participation".
- the encouragement of applications for employment or training for people from under-represented groups;
- the recruitment from those not in employment;
- targeting training in a particular area or at a particular class of person;
- the amendment of redundancy procedures to help achieve fair participation; and
- the provision of training for non-employees of a particular religious belief, following approval by the Equality Commission.