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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

Work related problem: Disability discrimination

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 tribunal 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 your employer and seek a resolution

Before taking legal action it is advisable to first try and resolve the dispute between you. If you have not already done so, you may wish to use your employer’s grievance procedure or write to the employer stating the facts of your complaint and asking her/him to take appropriate steps to deal with your concerns.

You should indicate that you believe the treatment you received may amount to unlawful discrimination on the grounds of disability contrary to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, as amended, and/or relevant European law.

You should seek any proposals your employer 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 lodge proceedings.

All employers should have procedures to deal with workplace grievances. If you fail to use or complete the grievance procedure, the Tribunal can reduce any award of compensation by up to 50%.  The Labour Relations Agency can provide guidance on other employment related issues including grievances.  You can contact them on their enquiry line 03300 555 300 or 03300 552 220 (switchboard).

If you are not satisfied with the employer’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 employer questions about the way you have been treated.

The questionnaire can be issued to the employer before you lodge a claim or within 21 days of lodging a claim. Where you are alleging discrimination against more than one person or organisation then you can send a questionnaire to each of them.

Please note that the time limit for lodging your claim applies even if you are waiting for replies to your questionnaire. You may therefore need to lodge your claim pending receipt of replies in order to protect your statutory rights.


You will see space at paragraph 6 for any other questions you would like to ask and you may wish to use some of the specimen questions below.

Specimen Questions

We have produced specimen questions for use with the questionnaire, primarily in employment related complaints:


As the questions have not been tailored specifically for you, you should change the specimen questions, add new questions, or leave out questions in order to suit the facts of your particular complaint.

You should choose the general questions and the questions relating to the particular issues of your complaint. They are detailed and you should select only those questions which are relevant to your complaint.

You should not ask the employer questions which are not relevant to your claim.

You can also use the questionnaire to ask for documents which are relevant to your complaint. You should include a general request for all documents relevant to your complaint which the employer may seek to rely on at any hearing.

Send a covering letter along with your completed questionnaire asking for a response within 8 weeks and remember to keep a copy of everything you send.


Early conciliation

Early conciliation measures have now come into effect. As a result anyone who wishes to lodge a claim with the tribunals must first notify the Labour Relations Agency and discuss the option of early conciliation which can help you and your employer resolve the issue before making a claim. You will not be able to proceed to tribunal without at least considering this option. You must let the Labour Relations Agency know about each employer or individual you intend to complain about.

During the early conciliation process you will be referred to as the “prospective claimant” and your employer will be referred to as the “prospective respondent”.

You can choose whether you wish to engage in early conciliation. If you choose to engage and conciliation is unsuccessful or if you choose not to engage, the Labour Relations Agency will issue you with an early conciliation certificate.

This process is likely to affect the time limit within which you can lodge a claim with the tribunal.

There are some circumstances where the requirement to notify the Labour Relations Agency does not apply.

Lodge your claim with the tribunal

To bring a discrimination complaint in a tribunal you need to complete a claim form from the tribunal website:


Your early conciliation certificate will have a unique reference number which you will need to include on your ET1 Claim Form. When completed return the form to the Office of the Industrial Tribunals and Fair Employment (OITFET) within the relevant time limit or complete the form online.


The Office is based at:

Office of the Industrial Tribunals and Fair Employment Tribunal
Killymeal House
2 Cromac Quay
Ormeau Road
Belfast  BT7 2JD 
028 90 327666

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.

During the course of tribunal proceedings you will be referred to as the “claimant” and the employer as the “respondent”.  

Once you have lodged your ET1 Claim Form the tribunal will send a copy to the respondent. The respondent should then submit an ET3 Response Form to the tribunal within 28 days, this usually sets out the respondent’s defence to your allegations of discrimination.

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 the lodging of a claim. This is because the Equality Commission and the Office of the Industrial Tribunals and Fair Employment Tribunal are separate and independent bodies.

An application for assistance is a request for legal representation from the Equality Commission in your discrimination claim.  The Commission’s Legal Funding Committee decide which applications the Equality Commission will assist.

If you wish to apply for assistance from the Commission you should complete an
Application for Assistance Form (Word document) when you have lodged a claim with the tribunal. You should enclose a copy of your ET1 Claim Form 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.


All the information contained on your application will remain confidential

When we receive your Application for Assistance Form it will be allocated to a Legal Officer in the Casework Team.  The Legal Officer will generally wait until you have provided a copy of the respondent’s ET3 Response Form before preparing a report for the Legal Funding Committee to consider.


Time limits apply

Remember there are strict time limits for taking a case of disability discrimination. Complaints on employment issues must be made to the tribunals within three months from the date of the discriminatory act. Even if you are attempting to resolve problems internally, the statutory time limits still apply.

Early conciliation measures have now come into effect.  As a result anyone who wishes to lodge a claim with the tribunals must first notify the Labour Relations Agency and discuss the option of early conciliation.  Potential claimants will not be able to proceed to tribunal without at least considering this option.  Your time limit is likely to be affected by this.

If your time limit has expired the tribunal has discretion to extend the time for you to lodge your claim. This is used sparingly and it is unwise to assume that an extension will be granted.  You still need to contact the Labour Relations Agency before you lodge a claim out of time.

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