The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has agreed
to the following Report:
THE OPERATION OF THE FAIR EMPLOYMENT
(NORTHERN IRELAND) ACT 1989 - TEN
1. Fair employment in Northern Ireland remains an
issue of considerable importance and sensitivity.
The question of how best to deal with allegations of discrimination
in employment, and how to bring about greater employment equality
between Roman Catholics and Protestants, has raised controversial
political and complex legal issues since the introduction of Direct
Rule in 1972, and before. A reflection of the importance attached
to fair employment issues, and equality more generally, is the
inclusion in the Belfast Agreement of a commitment by Government
to "make rapid progress with ...
measures on employment equality...". We note too the fact
that, under the Agreement, the Irish Government has accepted a
responsibility to ensure "at least an equivalent level of
protection as will pertain in Northern Ireland." Several
stressed how important to the Peace Process issues of equality
of opportunity are, particularly issues of fair employment. We
2. Fair employment is now about to enter a new phase
in three different respects. First, responsibility for the substance
of the legal requirements will be transferred to the Northern
Ireland Assembly once devolution takes place.
Second, the Fair Employment Commission for Northern Ireland will
be replaced with a new Equality Commission which will amalgamate
the four existing equality bodies - the Commission for Racial
Equality for Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Disability
Council, the Equal Opportunities Commission for Northern Ireland
and the Fair Employment Commission itself.
Third, the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1989, which
for the past ten years (together with the earlier Fair Employment
(Northern Ireland) Act 1976) has set out the legal requirements
on employers and others has been replaced by a new (and somewhat
different) Fair Employment and Treatment Order 1998.
It is thus an opportune time to reflect on the effectiveness of
the legislation to date, and consider what more, if anything,
might be done further to improve the situation.
1 Q379 and Q426. Back
for example, Q1, Q426. Back
Ireland Act 1998, Section 4. Back
Ireland Act 1998, Sections 73-4. Back
1998, No. 3162 (NI 21). The only provisions of the Order not yet
in force are Articles 80, 96 and 98, which deal with appeals against
national security certificates. These will be brought into force
following the making of the Northern Ireland Act Tribunal (Procedure)
Rules 1999, a draft of which currently awaits Parliamentary approval. Back