Racial Discrimination

The Race Relations (NI) Order 1997 follows closely the provisions of the Race Relations Act 1976. It outlaws discrimination on grounds of colour, race, nationality or ethnic or national origin and includes the Irish Traveller community.

Who does the Order apply to?

The Order applies to all employers, including public authorities, sub-contractors and franchises, regardless of size.

Unlawful Discrimination – what is it?

It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate:

  • in recruitment and selection – this includes arrangements for deciding who should be offered employment; which employment is offered; or by refusing or deliberately omitting to offer a person employment
  • in the terms and conditions of employment
  • in relation to access to benefits – this includes opportunities for promotion, transfer, training or any other benefits, or the refusal of those opportunities
  • by dismissing an employee or causing them any other detriment and after the employment relationship has ended

Employers are also liable for acts of discrimination committed by their employees in the course of their employment, whether or not the acts were done with the employers knowledge or approval, unless the employer can show that they took such steps as were reasonably practicable to prevent the discrimination occurring.

Where does the Order also apply?

The Order also applies to the following bodies:

  • those with statutory power to select employees for others
  • employment agencies
  • vocational organisations, including trade unions
  • training providers and those who have power to confer qualifications

The Order also applies to contract workers, partnerships and barristers.

Where doesn’t the Order apply?

The Race Relations Order does not apply to employers on grounds other than those of race or ethnic or national origin who provide training for people from abroad who intend to their home countries on completing the training; to employment where being of a particular racial group is a genuine occupational qualification for the job.

Racial Harassment

Racial harassment or abuse in the workplace is a form of direct discrimination. Racial harassment occurs when unwanted conduct that is based on race, has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity or creating an environment that is intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive.

Positive Action

Employers and training bodies can take positive action to help members of under-represented racial groups compete on equal terms with others in the labour market. An employer or training body may, for example, encourage members of a particular racial group to apply for particular work.

They may also provide a particular racial group with access to facilities for training to help to fit them for particular work. These provisions apply where a particular racial group is under-represented in that work.

The Order also permits the granting of facilities and services to a particular racial group in order to meet the special needs of persons in that group with regard to their education, training or welfare.


The Industrial Tribunal decides on individual cases of discrimination in the employment field. Complaints must be made within three months of the date of the alleged discrimination. The tribunal can award unlimited compensation or order remedial action. Appeals against decisions of a tribunal here can be made on a point of law to the Court of Appeal.

The County Court deals with all other cases under this legislation and complaints must be made within six months of the alleged discrimination.

Please bear in mind that the information contained here page intended as a brief summary only. If you have further queries you should seek legal advice.

Where can you go to get help?

Your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) can provide free and impartial advice. You can find your local CAB office in the phone book or online.

If you are a member of a trade union, you can get help, advice and support from them.

Source: nidirect.gov.uk