I’m being discriminated against at work in Northern Ireland: What do I do?
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Discrimination at work is unacceptable – Know your rights
Discrimination in the workplace can come in many forms, from being treated less favourably because of a protected characteristic to being passed over for promotion or subjected to harassment. If you believe you are experiencing discrimination at work in Northern Ireland, it is important to know your rights and the steps you can take to address the situation.
This article will provide an overview of the legal protections available to employees in Northern Ireland and outline the steps you can take if you think you are being discriminated against at work.
Understanding the legal protections against discrimination at work
In Northern Ireland, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees, workers or job applicants on the basis of a protected characteristic.
Protection against discrimination is provided in respect in respect of the following characteristics:
- Religious belief / political opinion
- Sexual orientation
Unlike in the rest of the United Kingdom, equality law in Northern Ireland is not consolidated into a single act.
Equality legislation in Northern Ireland
- Employment Equality (Age) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006
- Employment Equality (Repeal of Retirement Age) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011
- Sex Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 1976 (as amended)
- Equal Pay Act (Northern Ireland) 1970
- Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1999
Religious belief / political opinion
- Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003
- Civil Partnership Act 2004
What is discrimination at work?
Discrimination can be suffered in various ways including;
- Direct discrimination: when someone is treated less favourably because of a protected characteristic.
- Indirect discrimination: when an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice would put someone with a protected characteristic at a disadvantage compared to others.
- Harassment: when someone is subjected to unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic that has the purpose or effect of violating their dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.
- Victimisation: when someone is subjected to a detriment because they have made or supported a complaint of discrimination or raised a concern about discrimination.
If you believe you are experiencing any of these forms of discrimination at work, there are various ways you can seek redress.
Steps to Take if You Think You Are Being Discriminated Against At Work
1. Raise the Issue Informally
If you believe you are experiencing discrimination at work, the first step is to raise the issue informally with your manager or human resources representative. They may be able to resolve the situation through informal discussions or by taking action to address the behaviour.
2. File a Formal Complaint (Grievance)
If the issue is not resolved through informal discussions, you may need to file a formal complaint with your employer. Your employer should have a grievance procedure in place that sets out the steps to follow when making a complaint. This may involve submitting a written complaint, attending a meeting to discuss the issue and appealing any decision that is made.
3. Seek Mediation
If you are having difficulty resolving the situation through the grievance procedure, you may wish to seek mediation. This involves a neutral third-party facilitating discussions between you and your employer with the aim of finding a mutually acceptable solution.
4. Make a claim to an Employment Tribunal
If all other avenues have been exhausted or you believe that they would be ineffective in addressing the issue, you may wish to make a claim to an employment tribunal.
This involves you submitting a claim at the Employment Tribunal who will make a decision about whether discrimination has occurred and what action should be taken to remedy the situation.
It is important to note that there are strict time limits for making a claim to an employment tribunal. Usually, you must make your claim within three months of the discriminatory behaviour occurring.
Seek Legal Advice
If you are considering taking legal action, it is important to seek legal advice from a specialist employment law solicitor. They can advise you on your rights and the steps you can take to address the situation. Our team of experienced solicitors offer free initial consultation, Contact Us to arrange yours.
Discrimination at work is unacceptable
Discrimination at work is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. If you believe you are experiencing discrimination, you are entitled to seek legal recourse.
However, you should note that the burden of proof is on the person making the claim of discrimination. This means that you will need to provide evidence to support your claim. It is therefore important to keep records of any incidents of discrimination, including dates, times and details of what was said or done.
If you do experience discrimination at work, it can be a very stressful and upsetting experience. Beyond expert legal advice, there are also support networks such as the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.