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Changes proposed to Equality legislation

June 25th, 2011 · 6 Comments · Equality, Irish Politics

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter yesterday published the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011.

The Bill is fairly miscellaneous to be sure – covering matters including Legal Aid, Good Samaritans, bankruptcy, the sale of alcohol, charges for citizenship applications. Essentially it’s a tidying up bill covering loopholes and developments in many legislative areas.

It also contains amendments to Equality legislation and the operations of the Equality Tribunal.

From the memorandum

Section 16 (Amendment of section 78(7)(b) of Act of 1998)
provides for the extension of the deadline for application for
resumption of the hearing in situations where mediation has failed.

Section 17(a) and (b) (Amendment of section 79 of Act of 1998)
and Section 19 (Amendment of section 25 of Equal Status Act 2000)
provide that the Equality Tribunal may, where appropriate and
where the parties do not object, deal with cases on the basis of
written submissions only.

Section 17(c) permits the Equality Tribunal to state a case to the
High Court and avoid further litigation by way of appeal.

Section 18 (Amendment of section 82 of Act of 1998) adjusts the
maximum amount that may be awarded by the Equality Tribunal
in Employment Equality cases to 2 years’ remuneration or €40,000,
whichever is greater, to provide for greater redress in situations of
low-paid employment. This is in line with the EU Equality Directives
which require sanctions, which may comprise the payment of
compensation to the victim, to be effective, proportionate and

The one which stands out to me is that the Equality Tribunal are to be enabled to deal with cases by examination of written submissions only.

While this may speed up the number of cases being processed by the Tribunal (there is approximately a two year waiting time for a case to be heard) I would be very concerned that it might disadvantage those who do not have legal representation in making a complaint. There is no need to have such representation but many respondents (aka the accused) engage legal assistance in responding. The Tribunal and the Minister must consider what assistance it can provide to complainants who wish to take cases under the Employment Equality Act and Equality Acts (1998-2008) who have communication difficulties, language difficulties or disabilities.

Currently while written communications are provided to the Tribunal in taking a case, an oral hearing subsequently takes place (if the case does not enter mediation) where the complainant can explain verbally their situation to the Tribunal. Considering cases by the means of written documents only may speed things up but it may deny justice to many who are discriminated against in employment and the provision of goods and services.

While the bill states that this will happen where parties do not object and where the Director decides it may appear easier to some complainants to agree because they fear facing the respondents and they may do themselves a disservice in written formats. I’ll be keeping an eye on this.



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