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Equality Commission Strategic Enforcement 25 March 2010 Eileen Lavery.

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Presentation on theme: "Equality Commission Strategic Enforcement 25 March 2010 Eileen Lavery."— Presentation transcript:

1 Equality Commission Strategic Enforcement 25 March 2010 Eileen Lavery

2 Equality Commission established as a single Equality Commission on 1 October 1999 – Northern Ireland Act 1998 Commissioners appointed by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland – between 14 and 20 powers and duties derive from wide range of anti- discrimination legislation, scope increased since 1999 coexist with NI Human Rights Commission, Community Relations Council, NI Commissioner for Children and Young People

3 Role of Equality Commission promote equality of opportunity and affirmative/positive action work towards the elimination of discrimination promote good relations between persons of different racial groups keep equality legislation under review advise on and review public authority equality duties

4 Legislative framework (1)  Equal Pay Act (NI) 1970 (as amended)  Sex Discrimination (NI) Order 1976 (as amended)  Race Relations (NI) Order 1997 (as amended)  Fair Employment and Treatment (NI) Order 1998 (as amended)  Disability Discrimination Act 1995  Northern Ireland Act 1998 Section 75 and Schedule 9

5 Legislative framework (2) Sexual Orientation Regulations (NI) 2003 Special Education Needs and Disability (NI) Order 2005 Disability Discrimination (NI) Order 2006 Employment Equality (Age) Regulations (NI) 2006 Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (NI) 2006

6 Mainstreaming duties  unique to Northern Ireland in scope  shift approach to equality from non-discrimination to anticipatory intervention  designed to put equality and good relations considerations at heart of public policy making and service delivery  intended to make profound cultural change in the public sector  focused on addressing inequalities and promoting equality of opportunity

7 Advising and assisting complainants Legislation empowers the ECNI to provide advice & assistance to individuals who are actual or prospective complainants under each of the equality provisions Commission aims to achieve a balance between the provision of advice & the advancement of strategic litigation

8 Provision of advice ECNI through its campaigns raises awareness of rights and remedies for people who believe they have been discriminated against We provide information, support & advice to over 3000 people every year This includes advice on the law, the remedies, the forum for redress, how to initiate proceedings & how to resolve informally

9 Assistance Most callers to our advice line resolve the problem or do not choose to proceed to litigation However, about 10-12% of individuals who contact the Commission about anti- discrimination rights wish to pursue the matter through the courts or tribunals. Some also opt for an informal resolution through our conciliation service. The Commission has discretionary powers to provide legal assistance to applicants.

10 A Strategic Approach to Casework Provision of legal assistance The Commission can only grant assistance if the application comes within the statutory grounds as specified in the relevant legislative provisions ie. (a)The case raises a question of principle (b)It is unreasonable to expect the person to deal with the case unaided (c)Or by reason of any other special consideration

11 Factors Clarifying the law/making new case law Raising public awareness regarding individual complaints & about the protection afforded by the law Making impact in terms of bringing about changes in discriminatory practices & procedures Cost of assistance to be commensurate with the benefit to be gained in pursuit of the statutory objectives of the Commission

12 Wide discretion The Commission therefore has a wide discretion as to which cases it supports The Commission also has a limited budget and cannot assist all those who wish to litigate In the past year the Commission considered 400 new applications for legal assistance, of which 93 (23%) were granted assistance

13 Assistance across the grounds April 2009 – March 2010 Disability- 17% Sexual Orientation- 50% Religion/Politics- 11% Gender- 24% Age- 20% Race- 39%

14 Assistance Outcomes April 2008 – March 2009 Cases concluded69 Out of court settlement62(55 persons) Heard and decision 7 Decision awaited 4 Court of Appeal 2 House of Lords 1

15 Settlement terms Examples of terms: Undertaking by Respondent to liaise with the Commission in order to review the practices, policies and/or procedures which led to the case being taken Commitments to equality principals Commitments to undertaking equality training Admission of liability/deficit in practices Apologies/statements of regret Provision of references Undertaking to make reasonable adjustments

16 Strategic Objectives To assist individuals to secure their rights in the workplace, education and service provision. To highlight the breadth of the protections To improve equality practice

17 Contact details Equality Commission for Northern Ireland Equality House 7-9 Shaftesbury Square Belfast BT1 2DP Website:


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