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Promoting Equality 
A short guide to the role and services of 
the Equality Commission

Key equality laws in Northern Ireland:
Northern Ireland’s equality laws cover discrimination in 
The Equality Commission’s roles and responsibilities include:
employment and the workplace, but some also cover the provision 
 Giving advice and support to people with potential complaints 
of goods, facilities and services. 
under the anti-discrimination laws
 Northern Ireland Act 1998
 Giving guidance to employers and service providers about their 
obligations under the law and good practice advice
 Equal Pay Act (NI) 1970 
 Encouraging public authorities to promote equality of 
 Sex Discrimination (NI) Order 1976 * 
opportunity and address inequalities in fulfilling their equality 
 Disability Discrimination Act 1995 ** 
and good relations duties
 Race Relations (NI) Order 1997 * 
 Ensuring that equality considerations are central to decision-
 Fair Employment & Treatment (NI) Order 1998 * 
making by focusing particular attention in a number of key 
 Special Educational Needs & Disability (NI) Order 2005 *** 
public policy areas. 
 Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (NI) 2003 
Everyone who lives or works in Northern Ireland, regardless of 
 Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (NI) 2006 * 
whether or not they were born here, has rights under equality and 
 Employment Equality (Age) Regulations (NI) 2006  
anti-discrimination laws.
‘Goods, facilities and services’ include: 
These equality laws provide protection for everyone in Northern 
 access to and use of any place which members of the public or a 
Ireland against discrimination on the grounds of 
section of the public are permitted to enter, for example, shops. 
 accommodation in hotel, boarding house or other 
 banking, insurance, grants, loans, credit, finance 
 educational facilities 
 facilities for entertainment, recreation or refreshment 
 Religious or similar philosophical belief/political opinion
 facilities for transport or travel 
 services of any profession, trade, local government or other 
 Sexual orientation
public authority  
* applies to the provision of goods, facilities, services, education  
  and premises 
** applies to the provision of goods, facilities, services and premises 
*** applies to the provision of education  

Supporting people 
with complaints of discrimination
Every year, around 3,500 people contact the Equality Commission 
with complaints about discrimination. 
People are protected against unlawful discrimination on the 
grounds of 
 ethnic or national origins
 religious or similar philosophical belief or political opinion
 married or civil partnership status
 gender reassignment
 sexual orientation 
Not all complaints of unfair treatment may come within the 
protective scope of the equality laws, as there are some exceptions 
and gaps in coverage. 
We give free and confidential advice and information to everyone 
who asks for it. Most people are able to resolve their cases without 
going to court or tribunal, by using our discrimination advice service.
Assistance by the Commission can range from simply giving advice 
to, in some cases, arranging for legal representation.
We can also take legal action against individuals and organisations 
in some circumstances, eg if they have published a discriminatory 
We do not decide whether unlawful discrimination has taken place, 
this is for a court or tribunal to decide.

Equality and public authorities
The Northern Ireland Act 1998 also imposes another important 
Our work in this area includes 
duty on designated public authorities - Section 75. Its main aim is 
 keeping under review the effectiveness of the duties imposed  
to ensure that the need to promote equality of opportunity and 
by Section 75 
the desirability of promoting good relations are ‘mainstreamed’ by 
public authorities into their policy making processes. 
 offering advice to public authorities and others in connection 
with those duties 
All designated public authorities are also required to have an 
 approving equality schemes 
approved equality scheme which sets out their arrangements for 
complying with the main Section 75 duty. An equality scheme 
 preparation of guidelines 
provides the main mechanism for ensuring that a public authority 
 investigating complaints of failure to comply with an approved 
complies with its Section 75 duties.
scheme. Under paragraph 10 and 11 of Schedule 9 of the 
Northern Ireland Act, the Commission has the power to 
A ‘public authority’ in carrying out its functions has a duty  
investigate complaints that public authorities have failed to 
to have due regard to the need to promote equality of  
comply with their equality schemes from people who are 
opportunity between 
directly affected by such failure, and we can also initiate  
 persons of different religious belief, political opinion,  
such investigations. 
racial group, age, marital status or sexual orientation 
Designated public authorities include local councils, government 
 men and women generally 
departments and the bodies they fund, the Education Authority 
 persons with disability and without 
and Libraries NI, further education colleges, health boards  
 persons with dependants and without 
and trusts. 
More details about Section 75 are available on our website at

Disability Duties
Section 49A of the Disability Discrimination Act also imposes on 
designated public authorities a duty to have due regard 
 to the need to promote positive attitudes towards disabled 
people and 
 to encourage participation by disabled people in public life.
It is similar to the Section 75 duty and is enforced through the 
Disability Action Plans that public authorities are also obliged  
to have.
Our work in this area includes issuing guidance, such as guidance 
on developing Action Plans.

Working with employers
Legislative Review
More than 3,500 employers contact us every year for advice on 
The Commission monitors the way the Northern Ireland’s equality 
promoting equality of opportunity and avoiding discrimination.
laws are working, and makes recommendations to government on 
We run a programme of training for employers and service 
ways in which they can be improved.
providers to help them comply with equality law.
Under the Fair Employment legislation, certain employers must 
International Equality Frameworks
register with the Commission and monitor and review the 
We work on a number of international equality conventions to 
composition of the community background of their workforces and 
which the UK Government has signed up.
their employment practices.  We offer help in complying with this 
 The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons  
duty and every year we publish an analysis and summary of the 
with Disabilities, UNCRPD
monitoring returns.
 The UN convention on the Elimination of All Forms of 
A special section of the website offers tailored information  
Discrimination against Women, CEDAW
for employers and service providers 
 The UN Convention on the elimination of Racial
Discrimination, CERD
 Framework Convention for the Protection of National  
Minorities, FCNM
We undertake research or pay for research to be carried out by 
 European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, ECRI
others to provide reliable information and inform the debate on 
equality issues.

Can we help you?
There’s lots more information on our website: 
You can also ask for advice or information from there.
If you need advice or information about discrimination,  
call us and ask to speak to a discrimination advice officer,  
or arrange an appointment to come in.  
If you need a reasonable adjustment to enable to use this 
service, please just ask – eg a BSL interpreter or a foreign 
language interpreter.
Tel: 028 90 500 600
The Equality Commission 
for Northern Ireland
Equality House
7-9 Shaftesbury Square
  
March 2019