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How is our work influencing life in Northern Ireland and delivering equality? Learn more about our policy, legal and research work.

Keeping pace with Great Britain

Race law reform

What you need to know


Keep pace with legislative developments in Great Britain

Further, many of our recommendations will help ensure that Northern Ireland race equality legislation keeps pace with legislative developments in Great Britain.

As highlighted above, Northern Ireland race equality law, since its introduction in 1997, has in a number of key respects, consistently failed to keep pace with legislation in Great Britain which has strengthened and improved protection against racial discrimination for different racial groups.

Further, following the enactment of the Equality Act 2010, the gap in protection between the two jurisdictions has now significantly widened. There is now significantly less protection against discrimination, harassment and victimisation across all racial grounds and in a wider range of areas in Northern Ireland than in other parts of the UK.

The Equality Act 2010 has harmonised, simplified and strengthened equality legislation in Great Britain for BME individuals, as well as other groups protected under legislation.  A significant number of our recommended changes have already been implemented in Great Britain through the Equality Act 2010 in October 2010.

It is important to stress that whilst a number of the recommended changes have already been introduced in Great Britain, in certain areas, we consider that the Equality Act 2010 has not gone far enough. We recommend a number of changes which go beyond the level of protection currently set out in equality legislation in Great Britain.

In particular, we recommend Northern Ireland race equality law goes beyond the level of protection which currently exists in Great Britain by:

  • ensuring increased protection for certain categories of agency workers against racial discrimination and harassment
  • providing protection against intersectional multiple discrimination
  • strengthening protection for employees against third party racial harassment
  • removing the exception on the grounds of ethnic or national origins in relation to immigration
  • narrowing the employment exception on foreign nationals in the public service
  • increasing the powers of tribunals to make wider recommendations
  • increasing the powers of the Equality Commission to undertake formal investigations
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