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Equality Laws - Explained

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

To try and protect people from inequality and being treated unfairly, equality laws exist in Northern Ireland. To ensure that everyone receives their Human Rights, laws have been passed that make discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnic origin, gender, disability, political opinion, sexual orientation or religion and economic status illegal.

Laws that protect people's Human Rights and prevents social inequality in Northern Ireland include:

Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act (1998)

  • is concerned with the promotion of equality of opportunity. This law means that it is compulsory for government departments such as Education, Health and Justice, and other bodies such as the Housing Executive and the PSNI actively promote equality between people of different religions, ages, disabilities, racial groups, marital status, political opinion and gender.

Race Relations Order (1997)

  • makes it is illegal to discriminate against someone on the grounds of colour, race or ethnic origin. This law also makes it illegal to encourage others to become racist or act in a racist way (inciting racial hatred).

Equal Pay Act (NI) (1970)

  • makes in unlawful for employers to discriminate between men and women in terms of pay and conditions. Men and women must get paid the same amount of money if they are doing a job that is of 'equal value' (i.e. same skills, same knowledge, same demands of the job.)

Sex Discrimination (NI) Order 1976

  • makes it illegal to discriminate against individuals because of their gender - men and women must have equal opportunities in the different areas like employment.

Disability Discrimination Act 1995

  • makes it illegal to discriminate against an individual who has a disability. Therefore able-bodied, disabled and some people with mental impairment must be given the same opportunities.

Fair Employment and Treatment NI (Order)

  • makes it unlawful to discriminate against someone on the grounds of religious belief or political opinion.

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