Law guide: Employment

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Enforcement of rights

Enforcement of rights


An individual or the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (the ECNI) may bring the enforcement of non-discriminatory practices. The ECNI has the power to investigate discriminatory practices and may serve a non-discrimination notice. It can also give assistance to an individual pursuing a claim.

Enforcement by an individual

A complaint must be made within three months of the act complained of, or within 6 months for unequal pay complaints. Although the tribunal has discretion to extend the time limit, an extension will only be granted if it is just and fair to do so.


If a complaint is well founded, the tribunal may:

  • Make an order declaring your employee's rights
  • Order you to pay compensation
  • Make a recommendation that you take action to alleviate or reduce the effect of the act of discrimination on your employee

Failure to comply with such an order can lead to an increase in the compensation order.

In deciding the appropriate level of compensation, the following matters will be taken into account:

  • Monetary loss arising directly from an act of discrimination
  • Aggravated damages where you may have behaved in a high handed, malicious, insulting or aggressive manner
  • Injury to feelings
  • Interest will generally be awarded from the midpoint date between the act of discrimination and the date of the tribunal hearing

Removal of contractual term

You cannot insert a term into a contract that furthers or provides for unlawful discrimination, and such a term will be unenforceable against any person.

You can get more information from the Labour Relations Agency (LRA), which offers free, confidential and impartial advice on all employment rights issues. You can call the LRA helpline. The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland can help with advice regarding discrimination and equal opportunities.

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