Belfast Telegraph

Discrimination protection concerns

Minority ethnic and black people in Northern Ireland have less protection against discrimination, harassment and victimisation than in the rest of the UK, it has been claimed.

Eileen Lavery, head of advice and compliance at the Equality Commission, said there were increasing concerns about shortcomings in race legislation.

She said: "There are no quick or easy answers to eliminating inequality and deep-seated prejudices like racism.

"We must all be prepared to deal with the unwelcome fact that many people experience daily abuse because of their race and it is important that we try to eliminate such prejudices at all ages and in all parts of life. "

The Commission had urged the harmonisation of the law so that all individuals had the same level of legal protection against discrimination and harassment on grounds of colour and nationality as there was on grounds of race, ethnic origin and national origin - a measure already in place in Great Britain.

Ms Lavery said the drive for greater equality could also be helped by improving information about the composition of the workforce on the basis of ethnic origin and nationality.

Gathering information about numbers of migrant workers and new residents would enable a more accurate assessment to be made of fair participation in employment of minority ethnic people. But they did not have that information.

Other areas where the Equality Act 2010 had strengthened race equality legislation in Great Britain, but not in Northern Ireland, included greater discretion for employers, service providers and public authorities to take positive action in pursuit of race equality and stronger powers for employment tribunals allowing them to make recommendations which benefit the whole workforce.

Ms Lavery added: "The current situation, where we lag behind Great Britain in a number of areas of equality law, imposes a particular disadvantage for minority ethnic people.

"The Commission is committed to ensuring that our equality legislation meets the needs of all people in Northern Ireland, is consistent and that it takes account of our changing society."

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