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 gender/sex contrary to the Sex Discrimination (NI) Order 1976, and Equal Pay Act (NI) 1970, 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.
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 in both questionnaires for any other questions you would like to ask and you may wish to use some of the specimen questions below.
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.
To bring a discrimination complaint in an industrial 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
2 Cromac Quay
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.
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 doc) 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.