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As part of our commitment to continually improve our service and to help our clients meet their legal obligations, we continue to update the Legal Registers on our website and provide free quarterly legal compliance updates to anyone who subscribes. The purpose of these updates is to ensure you stay up to date with any changes in your legal compliance obligations, our updates can also be kept and can be used as evidence that your business is staying up to date with any changes in the legislation, this can be very helpful at audit time.
The Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 aims to promote equal opportunities and prevent discrimination in Northern Ireland on the grounds of religious belief, political opinion, race, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, and age. The order requires employers to ensure that they do not discriminate against employees or job applicants on these grounds, and to take steps to promote equality of opportunity. The order applies to all employers in Northern Ireland, regardless of their size, and covers all aspects of employment, including recruitment, training, promotion, and terms and conditions of employment. The order also establishes the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, which is responsible for promoting and enforcing compliance with the order, and provides for the investigation and resolution of complaints of discrimination.
The Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 requires employers to keep records relating to the religious background of their employees in order to monitor compliance with the order. Employers with 11 or more employees must keep records of the religious background of their workforce, including their community background and gender, in order to demonstrate that they are not discriminating against individuals on the basis of religion or political opinion. The records must be kept for at least three years and must be available for inspection by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland. The order also provides for the investigation and resolution of complaints of discrimination, with the burden of proof being on the employer to show that discrimination has not occurred. The purpose of these evidence requirements is to promote compliance with the order and to enable the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland to monitor and enforce compliance.
The Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 prohibits discrimination in employment on the grounds of religious belief, political opinion, race, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, and age. However, there are certain exemptions to this general prohibition, which include:
1. Genuine occupational qualifications: Employers may specify certain requirements for a job where there is a genuine occupational qualification (GOQ) necessary for the job. For example, a church may require that a minister be of a particular religious belief.
2. Positive action: Employers are permitted to take positive action to address under-representation or disadvantage in the workplace. This may include providing training or mentoring programs for employees from under-represented groups or using a tie-breaker mechanism where two candidates are equally qualified for a job.
3. Genuine material consideration: Employers may take into account a person’s religion or political opinion if it is necessary for the job. For example, a political party may only appoint someone as their press officer if they share the party’s political views.
It is important to note that these exemptions are subject to certain conditions and requirements, and must be justified in each case. Employers must be able to demonstrate that they have considered alternatives to discrimination, and that any decision based on an exemption is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
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Including our quarterly legal compliance updates that are a great resource for evidence for your ISO audits.