Rights at work (Northern Ireland)

Rights at work in Northern Ireland differ in a number of areas from those in the rest of the UK.

One of the most important areas is in relation to discrimination in the workplace.


Northern Ireland has not implemented the Equality Act 2010 and therefore discrimination laws in the region are drawn from a range of legislation:

  1. The Sex Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 1976
  2. The Disability Discrimination Act 1995
  3. The Race Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1997
  4. The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003
  5. The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006
  6. The Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996

Employers must not discriminate against anyone because of where they are from or on any of the other protected social identity grounds (such as race or ethnic origin) contained within Northern Ireland's anti-discrimination legislation.

Employers have a legal duty to ensure that they do not treat an individual less favourably on any grounds related to their age, gender, marital status, disability, race/nationality, sexual orientation, religious belief or political opinion.

Discrimination legislation applies during recruitment and selection, throughout the employment relationship and after the employment relationship has come to an end.

Discrimination can occur in three ways:

Direct discrimination

Treating a person less favourably on the grounds of their sex/race/sexual orientation/disability/religious belief/political opinion/age, for example, not appointing a female to a job because the preference is for a male.

Indirect discrimination

Occurs where something is equally applied to all but has the effect of disadvantaging a particular group and cannot be justified, for example, rules about clothing or uniforms that aren’t necessary and disadvantage a racial group.


Treating a person less favourably because they have either previously taken action in relation to discrimination, have assisted or been involved in action taken by someone else in relation to discrimination.

​Other differences

The key differences between UK law and Northern Irish law are outlined on the website of the Labour Relations Agency: