Employment Equality Acts 1998

05 February 2021

As an employer, you must ensure those working for you are treated fairly and not discriminated against. This includes during the hiring process, employment, and even during dismissal.

The Employment Equality Acts 1998 was introduced to protect employees from unfair treatment by employers, such as discrimination.

And if you were to discriminate against an employee, they might raise a claim against you to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). As a result, you could face financial and reputational damages.

In this guide, we'll discuss what the Employment Equality Acts 1998 is, your obligations as an employer, and what happens if you break them.

What are the Employment Equality Acts 1998?

The Employment Equality Acts 1998 is a range of Acts and legislation that ensures employees aren't discriminated against in both the public and private sectors.

The Acts aim to:

  • Promote equality in the workplace.
  • Ban discrimination across nine grounds of characteristics.
  • Ban sexual and all forms of harassment, as well as victimisation.
  • Ensure all facilities for people with disabilities are always available during employment, before employment, and training.
  • Ensure positive action is in place so everyone is treated equally.

The Acts are made up of:

  • Employment Equality Act 1998.
  • Equality Act 2004.
  • Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011.
  • Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015.

Who is protected under the Acts?

There are a range of people who are covered under the Acts. Ensure you’re aware of who these are, so you can do all you can to make sure everyone is treated equally.

Individuals covered by the act include those who work:

  • Full-time, part-time, and temporarily.
  • In the public and private sectors.
  • In vocational training bodies.
  • In employment agencies.
  • In trade unions, as well as professional and trade bodies.

Employer obligations under the Acts

Under The Equality Employment Acts 1998-2015, there are certain obligations that you must abide by. Failure to do so could lead to claims being raised against you to the Workplace Relations Commission, as well as The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

You must ensure you act fairly and not provide less favourable treatment to employees when:

  • Advertising a job role.
  • Paying employees.
  • Offering employment opportunities.
  • Offering vocational training and work experience.
  • Within terms and conditions of employment.
  • Offering promotions.
  • Dismissing an employee or when making them redundant.
  • Determining collective agreements.

What is discrimination in the workplace?

Discrimination in the workplace is when an employee receives unfavourable treatment because they hold one of the nine grounds for discrimination. These are:

Under the Acts, all forms of workplace discrimination are covered - for example direct discrimination and indirect discrimination

What other situations are covered by employment equality legislation?

As well as the above areas of discrimination, other types are covered by employment equality legislation in Ireland. It's vital that you're aware of these so you don't end up discriminating against employees who are working for you.

For example, these types of discrimination include:

  • Disability: You must make reasonable accommodations for disabled employees, such as flexible working for medical appointments.
  • Pregnancy: You must not discriminate against any pregnant employees you have, this applies throughout their employment, as well as any promotions or dismissal.

To keep yourself and your business safe from claims, you should never discriminate against your employees in all situations. Each person you have working for you should be treated with the respect they deserve.

What happens if you don't treat employees equally?

Not treating your employees equally at all times can lead to serious consequences for your business. Any employees affected may choose to raise a claim against you to the WRC.

Along with the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, they are in place to ensure all employees are treated fairly. For example, the law outlines that all employees must receive equal pay.

If the claim is made to the WRC, the body will investigate or use mediation to hopefully find an amicable solution. But if not, you may face both financial and reputational damages.

Get expert advice on Employment Equality Acts from Peninsula

When running a business, it's your legal responsibility to ensure all your employees are treated fairly and are not discriminated against. They're protected during the hiring process, whilst in employment, and if you dismiss them.

The Employment Equality Acts 1998 was created to protect employees against unfair treatment by employers. Failure to comply with it could lead to severe consequences.

Peninsula offers 24/7 HR advice which is available 365 days a year. Want to find out more? Contact us on 0818 923923 and book a free consultation with one of our HR consultants.

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