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Employment Equality Bill 17 April 2008

The Department of Trade and Industry has released a consultation document on proposals for an Employment Equality Bill. The Department is inviting views on the proposals that the Bill will protect workers against discrimination on the grounds of age, sexual orientation, disability, race and religion or belief.

The Employment (Sex Discrimination) Act 2000, which has been in force for 7 years, provides comprehensive protection to workers who are discriminated against on the grounds of their sex or marital status. However workers who are discriminated against on other grounds have no or limited protection. This means that while it is unlawful to dismiss an employee because of their race or religion, or because he or she is gay there is actually no law to prevent an employer refusing to recruit a person on those grounds.

The Department recognises that organisations of all sizes and in a wide variety of sectors have found benefits in taking a positive view of complying with existing equality legislation, both as employers and in their day-to-day business activities. It also recognises that organisations have chosen to follow best practice in order to recruit and retain the widest range of workers. These organisations are drawing on the talents of all within the community rather than restricting their recruitment because of preconceptions or prejudice.

The DTI Minister Hon David Cretney MHK stated “While I welcome this next step for employment law on the Island, I want any new legislation to be proportionate to the needs of the Island and its people and its businesses. I do not think that discrimination is a daily occurrence, but employees should be able to challenge behaviour that is not appropriate and have the backing of the law. That’s why I’ve requested this consultation so that I can assess what the level of need is and what will work for the Island.

Unlawful discrimination can have a cost to organisations as well as to individuals. Restrictive practices have an effect far beyond an organisation’s immediate workforce. They deny the organisation access to valuable knowledge, experience and skills. In addition discrimination can, and regularly does, lead to stress related illnesses, poor-quality work and long-term absences. It is time consuming for managers to try and deal with such issues.

The consultation document can be downloaded from the DTI employment law website at, follow the consultation link, or can be obtained from Sue Strang at the DTI on 682372.

The Department welcomes responses from individuals, organisations representing specific groups, employers and their organisations, trades unions and others.

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