Employment equality

Guidance on employment equality legislation in the Republic of Ireland.

The Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2011 cover employees in both the public and private sectors as well as applicants for employment and training.

The Acts outlaw discrimination in work-related areas such as pay, vocational training, access to employment, work experience and promotion. Cases involving harassment and victimisation at work are also covered by the Acts. The publication of discriminatory advertisements and discrimination by employers, vocational training bodies and employment agencies, e.g. trades unions and employer associations, is outlawed. Collective agreements may be referred to the Workplace Relations Commission for mediation or investigation.

The nine grounds on which discrimination is outlawed by the Employment Equality Acts are as follows (in the Employment Equality Act 1998 (Code of Practice) (Harassment) Order 2012:

  • Gender – man, woman (including transgender)
  • Civil status – single, married, separated, divorced, widowed, in a civil partnership within the meaning of the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 or being a former civil partner in a civil partnership that has ended by death or been dissolved.
  • Family status – responsibility as a parent or as a person in loco parentis in relation to a person under 18, or as a parent or the resident primary carer of a disabled person over 18 of such a nature as to give rise to the need for care or support on a continuing, regular or frequent basis.
  • Sexual orientation – heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual.
  • Disability – this is very broadly defined in section 2(1) of the Employment Equality Act and includes most disabilities. Employers have obligations to reasonably accommodate employees with disabilities (unless such measures would impose a disproportionate burden).
  • Age – the protection against age-related discrimination (including harassment) in employment applies only to employees over the maximum age at which a person is statutorily obliged to attend school. The minimum school leaving age is currently 16 years, or the completion of three years of post-primary education, whichever is the later.
  • Race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins
  • Religious belief – includes different religious background or outlook (including absence of religious belief).
  • Membership of the Traveller community – "Traveller community" means the community of people who are commonly called Travellers and who are identified (both by themselves and others) as people with a shared history, culture and traditions including, historically, a nomadic way of life on the island of Ireland.

The Acts also prohibit victimisation or discrimination against a person on the basis of association with another person, providing support to the person, being named as a comparator, acting as a witness on behalf of that other person, or who has given notice of an intention to take any such actions.