All organisations which provide services to the public, whether large or small, are subject to race relations law and should not discriminate or harass on the grounds of colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origins (including Irish Traveller).
As a provider of goods, facilities and services you have a responsibility to ensure that your employees do not discriminate against individuals. An employee who discriminates on racial grounds will usually be regarded as acting in the course of their employment, even if you have issued express instructions not to discriminate. This is called “vicarious liability”.
However, in legal proceedings against a service provider based on the actions of an employee, it is a defence that the service provider took, ‘such steps as were reasonably practicable’ to prevent such actions. Reasonable steps would include having an equality policy, communicating it to staff and implementing it effectively. It is not a defence for the service provider simply to show that the action took place without its prior knowledge or approval.
It is unlawful for anyone selling or managing property or premises to discriminate on racial grounds. For example, it would be unlawful for a landlord to refuse to rent or to evict someone on the basis of their race or colour or national origin.
A landlord agrees to rent a house to Joanne and her family. He changes his mind when he realises Joanne’s partner is not of European origin. The Landlord’s treatment of his family is likely to amount to direct racial discrimination.
It is also unlawful to apply discriminatory practices, publish discriminatory advertisements, instruct or put pressure on a person to do anything contrary to the law by discriminating in employment or other fields, or to knowingly aid another person to carry out such acts.
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, insurance, finance etc
Facilities for education
Facilities for entertainment, recreation or refreshment
Facilities for transport or travel
The services of any profession or trade, or any local or other public authority
It is also unlawful, on the grounds of race or ethnic or national origin, for a service provider to harass a person to whom it provides goods, facilities or services or to harass someone who seeks to obtain any of these goods or services.
There are some exceptions to the general principles of discrimination on the grounds of race:
- access to facilities or services which meet the special needs of racial groups with regard to their education, training or welfare
- discrimination, on the grounds of colour and nationality only, in relation to the provision of education or training for persons not ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland
- discrimination on the grounds of nationality, place of birth or length of time resident when selecting someone to represent a country, place or area in any sport or game or in relation to rules on eligibility to compete in any sport or game
- acts done to safeguard national security, or to protect public safety or public order
- acts done under statutory authority where the discrimination is on the grounds of colour or nationality
- certain restrictions based on nationality or residence or length of residence in the UK with regard to employment by the Crown
- discriminatory acts on the grounds of colour and nationality only in relation to the provision of accommodation, the disposal of premises or the granting of licence/consent in relation to small dwellings
- acts done by a person as a participant in arrangements under which s/he takes into her/his home, and treats as if they were members of her/his family, children, elderly persons or persons requiring a special degree of care and attention
- certain acts done by charities on grounds of colour or nationality
- employment where being part of a particular race or ethnic or national origin is a genuine and determining requirment for the employment in question
- certain acts in relation to the pay of seamen recruited abroad
- small private clubs with less than 25 members
- certain judicial and legislative acts
- certain acts in immigration cases
- certain decisions not to prosecute in criminal cases.