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Unsure of your equality rights or the law? We can provide advice and assistance for people who feel they have been discriminated against.

Complaints process

Service related problem: Religious belief/political opinion

What you need to know

Contact our Discrimination Advice Officers

We provide information and guidance on request for all discrimination complaints. We also provide free legal assistance including representation at court in a limited number of cases. To see how the Equality Commission's Legal Funding Committee decides which cases to assist, download our policy for the provision of legal advice and assistance (pdf) 

To discuss your complaint further, contact a Discrimination Advice Officer on 028 90 500 600 who will provide you with free and confidential information and guidance.

Alternatively you can contact us by email by using our online form.  A Discrimination Advice Officer can guide you through the process of having your complaint addressed. If you require an interpreter please let us know.

Raise your complaint directly with the service provider and seek a resolution

Before taking legal action it is advisable to first try and resolve the dispute between you and the service provider. If you have not already done so, you may wish to use the service provider’s complaints procedure or write to the service provider stating the facts of your complaint and asking for appropriate steps to be taken to deal with your concerns.

You should indicate that you believe the treatment you received may amount to unlawful discrimination on the grounds of religious belief / political opinion contrary to the Fair Employment & Treatment (NI) Order 1998, as amended, and/or relevant European law.

You should seek any proposals the service provider may have to satisfactorily resolve the matter and you should ask for a written response within an appropriate timescale e.g. 10 working days.

Generally such attempts at resolving disputes will not extend the statutory time limit within which you must issue proceedings.

If you are not satisfied with the service provider’s response then you may wish to bring a discrimination claim.


Gathering information using the questions procedure

The questions procedure or questionnaire is a form that can be used in some situations when you believe you have been discriminated against.  It gives you the chance to ask the service provider questions about the way you have been treated.

The questionnaire can be sent out to the service provider before you issue proceedings or within 21 days of issuing proceedings. Please note that the time limit for issuing proceedings applies even if you are awaiting a response to your questionnaire. You may therefore need to issue proceedings in order to protect your statutory rights.

Issuing proceedings in the County Court

To bring a discrimination complaint to the county court you will need to issue a civil bill.  This can be done through a Solicitor and will require you to pay a fee.  Depending on your circumstances you may be entitled to Legal Aid.

Please note: The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland is not your representative for your discrimination claim. The Commission is merely providing you with information at this stage.  You may wish to make an application for assistance to the Equality Commission.

Application for assistance from the Equality Commission

An application to the Equality Commission for advice and/or assistance does not constitute issuing proceedings. This is because the Equality Commission and the courts are separate and independent bodies.

If you wish to apply for assistance from the Commission you should complete an Application for Assistance Form (word doc) and return it as soon as possible to:

Discrimination Advice Officer
Legal, Policy and Research Division
The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland
7-9 Shaftesbury Square
Belfast  BT2 7DP

Alternatively you can email a completed application for assistance form to:


It is important that you read the Guidance Notes (pdf) before completing the Application for Assistance Form. We have also produced a list of Frequently Asked Questions (pdf 423kb) for your convenience.


Time limits
Remember there are strict time limits for taking a case of religious belief/political opinion discrimination. Complaints relating to services must be made to the County Court within 6 months from the date of the discriminatory act.

If your time limit has expired the court has discretion to extend the time for you to issue proceedings. This is used sparingly and it is unwise to assume that an extension will be granted.

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