What is the difference between Employment Equality and Equal Status?
Discrimination at work is covered by the Employment Equality Acts. If you are an employee, or trying to get a job, and you feel you are discriminated against unlawfully, on any of the nine prohibited grounds, you can make a claim under these Acts. The legislation covers all aspects of work including recruitment and promotion, the right to equal pay, conditions of employment, training or experience.
Discrimination outside the workplace is covered by the Equal Status Acts. If you are trying to get goods or services and you feel you are discriminated against unlawfully, on any of the nine prohibited grounds, you can make a claim under these Acts. The legislation covers many different goods and services. It includes access to a place, facilities for banking, entertainment, cultural activities or transport, professional or trade services, health services, access to education and accommodation.
Can the Workplace Relations Commission advise either party to a dispute?
No, the Commission cannot advise on the merits of a case. Because the Commission is responsible for hearing and deciding equality cases, and must remain impartial, it cannot advise either party to a claim. If a claim goes to mediation, the Commission's mediator must impartially help both sides to find a solution. If a claim goes to investigation, the Commission's Adjudication Officer has to hear and assess the evidence impartially and to issue his or her Decision based on that evidence and any relevant legal considerations.
What is the procedure for making an Employment Equality-related complaint?
Complaints of discrimination in relation to employment must normally be referred to the Workplace Relations Commission within 6 months. A Complaint may be made by completing the Workplace Relations Complaint Form, which is available on the Refer a Dispute/Make a Complaint page, and submitting it online.
What is the procedure for making an Equal Status complaint?
There are two stages to making an equal status complaint. Where an individual is thinking of making a complaint, he or she must first write to the service provider within 2 months of the alleged act of discrimination, stating the nature of the allegation and the intention, if dissatisfied with the response, to refer the case to the Director of Equality Tribunal. This is called notification. A standard form, known as the the Equality Tribunal ES 1 form, may be used for notification purposes and may be downloaded here - MS Word version - PDF version.
If a complainant is prevented from notifying the service provider within two months due to exceptional circumstances, the Tribunal can extend the period to four months, but only if the Director considers that the circumstances are exceptional, that they prevented notification and that it is just and equitable to do so. (Please see the Question 'How to apply for an extension of time' below)
A reply form, known as the ES.2 form, allows the respondent to set out their reply, but the respondent is not obliged to respond. Two versions of this form are available and may be downloaded here - MS Word version - PDF version. If the respondent does not reply, or if the respondent's information is false or misleading, the Acts allow the Commission to draw inferences from this, if appropriate, when reaching a Decision.
If a complainant is prevented from referring a complaint within six months due to exceptional circumstances, the Commission can extend the period to 12 months but only if the Director considers the circumstances to be exceptional and that they prevented referral. (Please see the Question 'How to apply for an extension of time' below)
What constitutes an employer under the Employment Equality Acts?
It can be difficult to identify the exact employer in some cases. A complainant may need to look at his/her contract of employment or payslip. It may be helpful to check with your union. If there is a doubt all possible employers should be named. If there is still a dispute, the Adjudication Officer can look at this issue first and decide it before looking at the rest of the claim.
Who is a Service Provider under the Equal Status Acts?
A Service provider can be a business, an individual, or an organisation in the public or private sector, which provides goods, facilities, or services to the public generally.
What happens if the respondent goes out of business (e.g. the business is sold or goes into liquidation)?
If a receiver or liquidator has been appointed, then he or she takes over responsibility for the respondent's debts. The claim can be made against the liquidator/receiver.
If the business has simply been sold, then the situation is more complicated. It may be best to take legal advice in this situation. Often the agreement for sale will state who is responsible for what claims against the business. Alternatively, a claim can be made naming both the seller and the purchaser, who can then sort out between them who is responsible.
Do I need a Lawyer or other Representative during Mediation or Investigation?
No, there is no requirement to have a lawyer or any other representative, and the majority of both complainants and respondents are not legally represented. However, parties may be represented by a trade union, trade or professional body or a lawyer or any other person.
What are the time limits for referring a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission?
A claim of discrimination must normally be referred to the Commission within 6 months of the date of the alleged incident, or of the most recent incident if there is more than one.
The Director of the Commission may extend time to a maximum of 12 months from the date of the last incident, if a complainant applies to do so and shows that there is reasonable cause to extend time.
A claim for equal pay is not covered by these statutory time limits.
Before referring a complaint to the Commission under the Equal Status Acts, a complainant must write to the person (the service provider) they think discriminated against them, stating what they think happened and that they intend to seek redress from the Workplace Relations Commission if there is no satisfactory reply from the provider. (See the question 'What is the procedure for making an Equal Status complaint?' above for access to the required ES1 form.)
How do I apply for an extension of time?
A complainant has only six months normally to refer a complaint under either of the Acts. If he or she considers that exceptional circumstances prevented referral of the complaint within those six months, he or she (or a representative) may apply to the Director of the Workplace Relations Commission for an extension of time for up to a further six months. The Director may grant an extension of time up to a maximum of twelve months from the date of the last incident of discrimination. He can only do so if the complainant applies for an extension and shows that there is reasonable cause to extend time. Therefore a complainant wishing to apply to extend time should include all necessary detail about why reasonable cause exists to grant an extension. Supporting evidence such as medical certificates should be included where relevant.
Please note that the Director has no power to extend time for lodgment of a complaint for more than 12 months after the date of the alleged incident.
Note - the following applies only to Equal Status notifications:
Under the Equal Status Acts, a complainant must first notify the service provider of the nature of an alleged incident of discrimination and that they are thinking of seeking redress by applying to the Director.
A complainant has only two months normally to make that notification. If a complainant was prevented by exceptional circumstances from notifying within those two months, he or she may apply to the Director of the Tribunal for an extension of time for up to a further two months. The Director may only extend time if he is satisfied that the circumstances were exceptional, that they prevented referral of a complaint in time and that it is just and equitable to extend time. Accordingly a complainant wishing to apply for an extension of time should include all necessary detail as to how the circumstances were exceptional and in what way they prevented referral on time. Supporting evidence such as medical certificates should be included where relevant.
Please note that the Director has no power to extend time for notification of a possible complaint for more than 4 months after the date of the alleged incident.
Are faxed or emailed complaints accepted?
The Commission normally cannot accept a complaint without a valid signature of the individual or his/her representative. Consequently if a complaint is faxed a complainant should also post the original. Complaints are not normally accepted by email. However in the event of particular difficulties please contact the Commission to see if special arrangements can be put in place.
Is it necessary to complete a separate form for each person making a complaint, or is a single form sufficient?
There must be a complaint signed either by the complainant him/herself, or by their authorised representative. It is better for each complainant to complete a separate form, as there may be differences between individual cases, even where the same incident or practice is concerned.
However, where a representative is acting for a large number of complainants (for example a union representing 300 persons in an equal pay case) a single form signed by the representative will be accepted, provided that the names of all the complainants are clearly indicated in part of the complaint.
Is it possible to take a complaint on more than one ground?
Yes. If a person feels that he/she has been discriminated on more than one of the nine grounds he/she may indicate each of the grounds that are applicable in the particular case. The Adjudication Officer will consider each of them
Is it possible to take a complaint on behalf of a son/daughter (aged under 18)?
Yes. If your child is too young to make a complaint, you as the parent or guardian can make a complaint on their behalf. Please state in the form the child's name and age, how they were discriminated against, your name and relationship to them, and that you are making the claim on their behalf. You can then sign the form for them. Evidence still needs to be given at the hearing about what happened, but your child will not be asked to give evidence if they are too young to do so.
Is it possible to take a complaint on behalf of my son/daughter (aged over 18)?
If your child is over 18, you can represent them (argue the case for them) if you wish, but they must authorise the complaint themselves and give their own evidence about what happened.
If there are particular reasons (e.g. intellectual or psychological disability) why your child cannot do this, you can make the claim on their behalf.
What happens at a Hearing?
The Adjudication Officer considers all of the evidence from both sides at the hearing. Each side is given an opportunity to put questions to the other and the Adjudication Officer will also question the parties on their evidence and on other points which may arise in the course of the hearing.
Having considered all of the evidence, the Adjudication Officer will issue a written Decision to both sides after the hearing.
The Commission is legally obliged to publish Decisions. However in certain sensitive cases, the parties may ask to have their names withheld. Copies of all Decisions are made available on this website. To view these visit the Decisions and Determinations Search page.
Is it possible to bring witnesses to the hearing?
Yes, if you need to. Witnesses should have relevant evidence to give. The Adjudication Officer should be informed in advance of named witnesses attending hearings. If necessary, an Adjudication Officer has the power to order a witness with relevant evidence to attend.
Are all hearings held in Dublin?
Not necessarily. The Adjudication Officer or mediator will normally arrange a hearing or mediation to take place at a location which is accessible to both parties. The Tribunal cannot pay any travel costs which may arise for either party.
Does the Workplace Relations Commission award costs?
No, the Commission has no power to award costs to either side. However, it can award certain expenses in exceptional circumstances.
When is the Decision made available to the parties?
The Adjudication Officer will send the written Decision by registered post to both parties after the hearing. Decisions are normally issued within 3 months of the hearing.
What redress is available under the Employment Equality Acts?
Under Employment Equality legislation, one or more of the following as appropriate:
- An order for equal treatment.
- An order for equal pay (plus a maximum of 3 years arrears before the complaint was referred, where appropriate)
- An order for compensation of up to 2 years pay or up to €40,000, whichever is the greater, for the effects of discrimination or harassment/sexual harassment suffered (up to €13,000 for someone who is not an employee of the respondent).
- An order for compensation of up to 2 years pay or up to €40,000, whichever is the greater, for the effects of 'victimisation'
- An order for a specified person to take a specified action
- An order for re-instatement or re-engagement
- Redress can only be ordered for any acts of discrimination or 'victimisation' that occurred within 6 months of lodging of a complaint (in the context of 'on-going' discrimination)
What redress is available under the Equal Status Acts?
Under Equal Status cases, either or both of the following as appropriate:
- An order for compensation of up to €15,000
- An order for a specified person to take a specified action
Is there a time limit within which an award of the Workplace Relations Commission should be paid?
If a Decision of the Commission has not been complied with after 42 days, parties have the right to apply to the Circuit Court for an order for enforcement. In certain circumstances the Commission has the power to apply on a complainant's behalf.
If the complainant is successful with his/her case, how does he/she collect his/her award?
The Workplace Relations Commission does not have any role to play in the enforcement of Decisions. It is a matter for the parties involved in the claim to make arrangements between themselves for implementation of any award. The Circuit Court is empowered to enforce decisions and mediated settlements where there has been a failure to comply.
Can Decisions be appealed? If so, How are they appealed?
Yes, Decisions under Employment Equality can be appealed by either party to the Labour Court. Decisions under Equal Status can be appealed by either party to the Circuit Court. There is a strict time limit of 42 days from date of the Decision of the Adjudication Officer. This time limit cannot be extended. There is no further appeal possible except to the High Court on a point of law.
Are Government Departments exempt from the Equal Status Acts? Who is exempt?
Government Departments are covered by the Equal Status Acts, to the extent that they are providing services to the public or part of the public.
There are a number of detailed exemptions in the Equal Status Acts, depending on the ground and the area concerned. The main one relevant to Government Departments is section 14, which states that any action required by legislation is exempt from the Equal Status Acts. Acts by Government Departments which are not required by statute are not normally exempt.