Views sought on ‘gaps’ in equality legislation in Northern Ireland

Views sought on 'gaps' in equality legislation in Northern Ireland

Ciara Fulton

Members of the public have been urged to contribute to an inquiry into gaps in equality legislation in Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Assembly’s committee for the Executive Office is undertaking an inquiry into differences in equality legislation between Northern Ireland, other parts of the UK and the EU, which is expected to complete in early 2025.

As part of that inquiry, a public survey has been launched which will run until 6 September 2024.

Committee chairperson Paula Bradshaw said: “We want to hear from a wide range of people involved in or impacted by equality legislation and to ensure that their views are listened to. This is the first, but a very valuable stage in gathering information for the Committee to consider.

“Equality legislation affects all of us and it’s crucial that we hear from as many people as possible to ensure that it is robust and fit for purpose.”

Employment lawyer Ciara Fulton, head of Lewis Silkin NI, has welcomed the new inquiry as an important development for people and businesses in Northern Ireland.

Ms Fulton said: “Northern Ireland does not currently offer any protection to people against age discrimination in the provision of goods and services in this jurisdiction.

“We also make it harder for disabled people to bring claims for discrimination by not providing protection against indirect discrimination or discrimination arising from a disability as has been available in Great Britain since 2010.

“Also, the process of gender reassignment in Northern Ireland requires ‘medical supervision’ and we will need to consider the wider approach taken in Britain and Ireland to this.

“Even in areas such as gender discrimination, we don’t have up to date monitoring obligations to detect gender pay gaps, let alone the right tools for eliminating these, which makes Northern Ireland an outlier in Europe.”

She added: “Harmonising and simplifying the equality laws in Northern Ireland would also address inconsistencies, anomalies and complexities and ensure uniform protection against discrimination across all grounds, where appropriate, benefitting employers and employees alike.”

Lewis Silkin grew out of two significant local law firms, including Jones Cassidy Brett, whose founding partners helped to shape Northern Ireland’s fair employment legislation and worked in the area of discrimination in the workplace.

“The differences in equality protection are now significant and it is time for us again to take on the challenge of correcting this and levelling the playing field,” Ms Fulton said.

“We are grateful to the committee for the Executive Office for tackling this important issue and look forward to presenting our evidence. We urge people to engage with the inquiry.”

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