Irish Legislation

Equality Legislation


The Employment Equality Act 1998, which came into operation in October 1999, repeals and replaces the Anti-Discrimination (Pay) Act 1974 and the Employment Equality Act 1977.

The Employment Equality Act 1998 outlaws discrimination in employment on nine distinct grounds:
• Gender
• Family status
• Marital status
• Age
• Disability
• Sexual orientation
• Religion
• Race
• Membership of the traveller community.

The scope of the legislation is comprehensive and covers discrimination in relation to:
• access to employment
• advertising
• conditions of employment
• equal pay for work of equal value
• promotion
• collective agreements
• training
• work experience. 

These kinds of discrimination are outlawed whether by an employer, an employment agency, a trades union, a professional body, a vocational training body or a newspaper advertising jobs.

The Act gives protection to employees in both the public and private sector as well as applicants for employment and training.  It allows an employer to put in place positive action measures to promote equal opportunities on gender grounds.  It also allows positive action specifically geared towards the integration in employment of people over the age of 50, people with disabilities and members of the traveller community.


In 1999 the National Disability Authority Act was enacted to underpin the new mainstream framework for the provision of services to people with disabilities.  Under this Act, the National Disability Authority (NDA), which is an independent statutory body, was established.  This is an expert body dedicated to disability issues. 

Functions of the Authority include:
• assisting the Minister in the co-ordination and development of policy relating to persons with disabilities
• undertaking, commissioning or collaborating in research projects and activities on issues relating to disability and assisting in the development of statistical information appropriate for the planning, delivery and monitoring of programmes and services for persons with disabilities
• advising the Minister on appropriate standards for programmes or services provided or to be provided to persons with disabilities and to act as an advisory body with regard to the development of general and specific standards and codes of practice for programmes and services provided
• preparing codes of practice
• monitoring the implementation of standards and codes of practice in programmes and services provided
• reporting to the Minister of Justice, Equality and Law reform on all issues relating to its functions
• liasing with other bodies, both corporate and non-corporate, involved in the provision of services to persons with disabilities and to facilitate and support the development and implementation of appropriate standards for programmes and services
• taking the lead in both encouraging and recognising the promotion of equality for people with disabilities
• recognising the achievement of good standards and quality in the provision of programmes and services to persons with disabilities including through the provision of a disability equality awards system.


The Equal Status Act 2000, which came into operation in October 2000, compliments the Employment Equality Act 1998.   The Equal Status Act is based on the principle that everyone has an equal right to participate in our society.  People should not be denied access to services, facilities or amenities because of race, age, disability or membership of a traveller community – everyone should be seen as being of equal worth and entitlement.  Each person should be treated on his or her own merits and not on the basis of a prejudice or stereotype. 

The Act provides comprehensive legal protection against discrimination in the delivery of goods and services, whether provided by the State or private sector – this will be of particular benefit to people from marginalized groups and those vulnerable to discrimination.

The Equal Status Act 2000 provides protection against direct and indirect discrimination outside of employment on the same nine grounds.  All services that are generally available to the public are covered by this legislation including facilities for refreshment and entertainment, credit facilities and transport services.  The Act also contains a sanction against a private registered club that is found to be discriminating in relation to its members or an applicant for membership. The sanction is the loss of permission to provide alcoholic drinks to its members in its clubhouse bar.  Victimisation of a person because of their involvement in proceedings under the Act is also treated as a discriminatory ground.

Under the Act, it is illegal to discriminate on the grounds of gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race and membership of the traveller community in:
• the provision of goods, facilities and services available to the public generally
• schools and other educational establishments
• the provision of accommodation
• relation to membership of private registered clubs.
The Act prohibits discrimination, sexual harassment and harassment.

The Equal Status Act is not just about people who encounter discrimination – as well as encompassing the rights conferred on those covered by the nine grounds, the act also sets forth the obligations now imposed on the owners and operators of businesses which supply goods and services, on those who provide accommodation, on the management of schools and educational establishments, and on the boards of private registered clubs.







Constitutional Provisions


Articles 40.1, 40.3.1, 40.3.2 and 44.3.3. of Irish Constitution


Civil and Administrative Law


  • Employment Equality Act 1998
  • Equal Status Act 2000
  • Unfair Dismissals Acts 1973 – 1993


Criminal Law


Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989


Forms of Discrimination:





Direct Discrimination


  • Section 6(1) Equal Employment Act 1998
  • Section 3(1)(c) Equal Status Act 2000


Indirect Discrimination


  • Section 3(1) Equal Employment Act 1998
  • Section 3(1) & (2) Equal Status Act 2000




  • Section 32 Equal Employment Act 1998
  • Section 11 Equal Status Act 2000


Instruction to Discriminate


  • Section 8(4)  & 14 Equal Employment Act 1998
  • Section 13 Equal Status Act 2000


Employment / Training:





Access to Employment


  • Articles 40.3.1 – 2, Irish Constitution
  • Sections 2, 8 & 13 Equal Employment Act 1998


Access to Goods & Services


  • Sections 2(1), 5(1) & 6(1) – (5) Equal Status Act 2000
  • Article 40.1, Irish Constitution




  • Section 7(1) – (2) Equal Status Act 2000
  • Education Act 1998




  • Sections 8 & 12 (1) – (2) Equal Employment Act 1998
  • Section 7(2)(b) Equal Status Act 2000


Employment / Working Conditions


  • Section 8 (29) Equal Employment Act 1998
  • Unfair Dismissals Act 1977


Membership / Involvement in Organisations


  • Section 13 Equal Employment Act 1998


 Social Conditions:





Social Protection


  • Article 40.1 of Irish Constitution
  • Sections 2 & 4(2) Equal Status Act 2000


Social Advantages


  • Article 40.1 of Irish Constitution
  • Sections 2 & 4(2) Equal Status Act 2000




  • Section 74 Equal Employment Act 1998
  • Section 3(2) Equal Status Act 2000


Positive Action / Representation:





Genuine & Determining Occupational Requirement


  • Section 37 (2) – (5) Equal Employment Act 1998
  • Sections 5(2)(i) & 15(1) Equal Status Act 2000


Legal Provisions for Positive Action


  • Section 33 Equal Employment Act 1998
  • Sections 9 & 14 Equal Status Act 2000


Programmes for Positive Action


  • Gender Equality in Employment


Burden on Proof


In practice, courts tend to reverse but no legal provisions


Representation by Associations, Organisations or other Legal Entities


  • Equality Authority
  • Human Rights Commission


Specialised Body


Equality Authority



Direct Discrimination: - Happens where a person is treated less favourably specifically on one of the nine discriminatory grounds.

Indirect Discrimination: - Happens where there is less favourable treatment in effect e.g. where people are refused a service or employment not explicitly on account of a discriminatory reason but because of a practice or requirement which they find harder to satisfy – resident’s association for example.

Discrimination by Association: - Happens where a person associated with another person is treated less favourably because of that association.

More: Gender Equality in Employment