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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.
 
 

Help address key racial inequalities

Race law reform

What you need to know

 

Help address key racial inequalities in Northern Ireland
 

We consider that these changes will help address key racial inequalities in Northern Ireland.

It is clear that there are still unacceptable levels of racial discrimination, harassment and prejudice in Northern Ireland.   For example, the Equality Awareness Survey 2011 (pdf), commissioned by the Equality Commission has revealed high levels of negative attitudes towards certain racial groups; particularly Irish Travellers and Eastern European migrant workers.  It is also the case that racist hate crime is the second most common form of hate crime in Northern Ireland and that levels of racist hate crime are continuing to increase. In addition, we continue to receive and investigate a large number of complaints alleging discrimination on racial grounds.

Our recommendations for change to the race equality law will, for example, provide greater protection for individuals against racial discrimination and harassment who currently have no or limited protection under the race equality law. For example, they will introduce new protections for Councillors and certain categories of agency workers against unlawful racial discrimination.

They will also result in the removal of unjustifiable exceptions which limit the scope of the race equality legislation and unnecessary barriers that limit individuals’ ability to exercise their rights under the legislation.

We recognise that legislative changes by themselves won’t address all the issues or barriers facing BME individuals in Northern Ireland.  However, legislation outlines minimum standards and levels of protection in our society. It is therefore important we have robust and comprehensive equality legislation setting out clear standards which employers, service providers, and others must comply with.

Robust legislation acts as a catalyst for change which encourages good practice, raises standards and enables individuals to obtain redress when standards fall.

It is of note that a report from the Government Equalities Office in Great Britain following the introduction of the Equality Act 2010, has highlighted that pressure on employers to promote equality principally comes from a combination of legislation and the organisation’s sense of moral or social responsibility . It indicates that the reason why the vast majority of employers adopt a conscious approach to equality and discrimination matters is in order to comply with equality legislation and because they consider it morally important.

Our recommendations for change to the race equality law will, for example, provide greater protection for individuals against racial discrimination and harassment who currently have no or limited protection under the race equality law. For example, they will introduce new protections for Councillors and certain categories of agency workers against unlawful racial discrimination.

They will also result in the removal of unjustifiable exceptions which limit the scope of the race equality legislation and unnecessary barriers that limit individuals’ ability to exercise their rights under the legislation.

We recognise that legislative changes by themselves won’t address all the issues or barriers facing BME individuals in Northern Ireland. However, legislation outlines minimum standards and levels of protection in our society. It is therefore important we have robust and comprehensive equality legislation setting out clear standards which employers, service providers, and others must comply with. 

Robust legislation acts as a catalyst for change which encourages good practice, raises standards and enables individuals to obtain redress when standards fall.

It is of note that a report from the Government Equalities Office in Great Britain following the introduction of the Equality Act 2010, has highlighted that pressure on employers to promote equality principally comes from a combination of legislation and the organisation’s sense of moral or social responsibility. It indicates that the reason why the vast majority of employers adopt a conscious approach to equality and discrimination matters is in order to comply with equality legislation and because they consider it morally important.

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