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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.


The Equality Commission has powers to investigate public authorities under Section 75 of the NI Act and to carry out independent formal investigations.

Investigations into public bodies’ non-compliance with their equality schemes (Section 75 investigations)

The Equality Commission has powers (under paragraph 10 and 11 of Schedule 9 of the Northern Ireland Act) to investigate complaints that public authorities have failed to comply with their equality schemes from people who are directly affected by such failure, and we can also initiate such investigations.


A person can complain to a public authority that it has failed to comply with what it committed to do in its Equality Scheme.  If the public authority’s response to the complaint is not satisfactory, then the complaint can be brought to the Commission, asking us to investigate it.   We receive complaints alleging that a public authority has, for example, failed to assess the equality implications of an existing or a new/proposed policy. (see also paragraph 1.13 of the Procedures for other examples).


Completed investigations are presented in an Investigation Report, which will set out whether the alleged failure to comply with the equality scheme has been established, and any recommendations for the public authority.


Procedure for Complaints and Investigations

The Commission has Procedures for Complaints and Investigations (pdf) under Paragraphs 10 and 11 of Schedule 9 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. 

For further information and advice on complaints alleging that a public authority may have failed to comply with its equality scheme, or investigations, please contact the Investigations Team by email:

Paragraph 10 Investigations

Paragraph 10 of Schedule 9 of the Northern Ireland Act provides that when the Commission receives a complaint made in accordance with that paragraph of failure by a public authority to comply with its approved equality scheme, the Commission will either investigate the complaint, or provide reasons for not investigating.

Paragraph 10 Reports

Complainants & Ulster University (2023, pdf 253kb) and press release
Final Report of Commission Investigation Under Paragraph 10 of Schedule 9 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998

Complainants & the Department for the Economy (2022, pdf 368kb) and press release
Final Report of Commission Investigation Under Paragraph 10 of Schedule 9 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998

Complainants (the Committee on the Administration of Justice and the Pat Finucane Centre) & The Northern Ireland Office (2021, pdf 368kb) - Investigation Recommendations (pdf, 300kb) and press release
Final Report of Commission Investigation Under Paragraph 10 of Schedule 9 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998


Paragraph 11 Investigations

Paragraph 11 empowers the Commission to undertake investigations to allow any other investigation [ie other than paragraph 10] where it believes that a public authority may have failed to comply with its approved equality scheme.

We can therefore only investigate a public authority under Paragraph 11 if we believe that the public authority may have failed to comply with its approved equality scheme.

Paragraph 11 investigations can be generated purely from within the Commission´s own knowledge, or from matters of general importance brought to its attention by interested third parties.

Paragraph 11 Reports

Northern Ireland Office: Equality Scheme and the Legacy Bill (2023, pdf) and press release

Department of Finance: preparation of the Budget for Northern Ireland 2019-20 (2020, pdf) and press release


< Investigations page
Delivering equality
Formal Investigations

The Commission can conduct a formal investigation under the provisions of most of the anti-discrimination legislation. The exceptions are sexual orientation legislation [employment] and age legislation.

There are some differences to the formal investigation powers across the different legislative areas, but in all cases the Commission has important powers to obtain information, make recommendations, issue reports, issue non-discrimination notices and use legally binding agreements or directions.

Formal investigations may be based on a general principle of achieving the promotion equality of opportunity under one of the discriminatory grounds. Alternatively, they may be based on a belief that a discriminatory act has occurred, and as such are confined to the investigation of a named person or persons.

Before initiating an investigation, we will consider the importance of the issue to equality and in the context of the strategic value of the investigation in relation to our current business objectives.

Expecting Equality: Pregnant workers and mothers in Northern Ireland workplaces

Expecting EqualityThe Equality Commission conducted a formal investigation into the employment experiences of pregnant women and mothers, on maternity leave and on their return to work.

We explored whether pregnant women and mothers receive equal treatment in employment and identified both barriers to equality of opportunity and employment practices that women have found helpful and supportive.

Almost 1,000 women across Northern Ireland responded to an online survey sharing their experiences through focus group discussions and interviews. Employers were also given the opportunity to tell us about their experiences, concerns and good practices. 

The findings were launched at Titanic, Belfast, on 29 November 2016 – read the press release

Download the investigation's findings:

Following the investigation the Commission produced new guidance for employers on pregnancy and maternity in the workplace:

If you would like to know more about the investigation please contact Rosalynd Harkness, email:, Tel: 028 90500574


Exception of teachers from FETO

The 'Teachers' Exception'

An exception dating back to the original drafting of Fair Employment legislation in Northern Ireland means that teachers in schools are not protected in employment against discrimination on the grounds of religious belief.

We carried out a review of the situation in 2004, which concluded that the continuation of the exception will not further equality of opportunity for teachers.

We recommend the removal of the exception in the employment provisions of Fair Employment and Treatment (NI) Order 1998 in relation to the recruitment of teachers in secondary level schools, and early consideration as to whether the exception should also be removed for primary level schools.

The Commission’s views on limiting the exception to primary schools only – that is, removing it from secondary level schools - are expressed at the beginning of our Teacher Exception Report.

The removal of the teachers’ exception is again recommended (Proposal 6) in our current proposals for legislative reform and has been raised with Junior Ministers and the OFMDFM Assembly Committee.

Has health information for people with a learning disability got better?

This is a 2013 update on the 2008 investigation

Overall, researchers found that there has been much activity by health services in the five years under review, which has provided the foundation for improving the accessibility of health information for people with a learning disability. It will take further time for the overall benefits of policies and strategies to be seen.

Progress is being monitored through the Bamford Review Action Plans, through the Learning Disability Services Framework and through the review of strategies such as the GAIN Guidelines. Systems have been set up to ensure that people with a learning disability have the opportunity to voice their opinion about the services provided. It remains important that health information is accessible and it is encouraging that the health service has committed through a number of measurable strategies to do this.

Review of the Formal Investigation into the Accessibility of Health Information for People with a Learning Disability in NI:


Health information for people with a learning disability

A formal investigation under the Disability Discrimination legislation to evaluate the accessibility of health information in Northern Ireland for people with a learning disability.

This 2008 investigation identified that some healthcare professionals do not adjust their communication style for people with a learning disability. Other barriers to effective communication included attitude and levels of awareness as well as a lack of familiarity of the needs of people with a learning disability by health professionals.

Time issues, both in terms of waiting for a consultation (which, in turn, increased anxiety levels) and the actual amount of time available for consultation itself were also highlighted.

The investigation found that written information is generally not produced in an accessible format suitable for people with a learning disability.

The report outlined a series of low-cost, practical recommendations. These include the production of appropriate written information - addressing style, size, use of pictures and language issues; communication training for health service practitioners; the maintenance of comprehensive health records; liaison with a Community Learning Disability Team; use of Patient Liaison Nurses and the option of a Passport System to assist individuals with their communications needs.



The recruitment sector in the employment of migrant workers

Our investigation identified a number of improvements which the recruitment sector can make to promote equality of opportunity for migrant workers.

Our recommendations aim to address the issues which hinder equality of opportunity such as language barriers, awareness of rights and practices which do not meet the legislative requirements.


Contact the Equality Commission Formal Investigation Team:

Rosalynd Harkness
Formal Investigation Officer
The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland
Equality House
7-9 Shaftesbury Square
Belfast  BT2 7DP


Tel: 028 90 500 600

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