Equal Opportunities

About equal opportunities and discrimination

It is important for every organisation to uphold their duties with regards to non-discrimination and equal opportunities. Equal opportunities is about treating everyone fairly and with respect. There are clear legal obligations, and failure to comply with these can lead to claims for discrimination.   

The main legislation in this area is The Equality Act 2010.

An organisation and / or individual within an organisation can be liable for acts of discrimination. Discrimination can be direct or indirect. It can be intentional or unintentional.

In this section, we look at the different types of discrimination and the protected characteristics that are set out in the Equality Act.  This section explains the different types of discrimination and what action should be considered to prevent discrimination occurring in the workplace. We consider disability discrimination and the duty to make reasonable adjustments, your equal opportunities policy and why this is so important, and training employees, so they know what behaviour is (and is not) acceptable. 

We cover unlawful discrimination against part-time workers or workers on fixed term contracts.

Resources include a basic video on working with colleagues and behaviour at work.

Frequently asked questions

Speculating about a colleague's sexuality can constitute harassment. If one of your employees is harassed by colleagues, or even their Manager, about their sexuality, your employee can make a complaint and take their case to an employment tribunal if you don't deal with it properly. You should make it clear to your employees that it is unacceptable and unlawful to victimise another member of the team on the grounds of their sexual orientation. Remember, harassment is subjective and what might appear legitimate or light-hearted to some people, may well be unsettling and intrusive to others.

Where possible, employees are invited to use their break times for rest and relaxation, it is considered personal time and so, could be used for prayer also. Not allowing people to pray during scheduled unpaid breaks could be challenged as religious discrimination under the Employment Equality Act.

In section 12 of the Organisation of Working Time Act it states that 

12.—(1) An employer shall not require an employee to work for a period of more than 4 hours and 30 minutes without allowing him or her a break of at least 15 minutes.

(2) An employer shall not require an employee to work for a period of more than 6 hours without allowing him or her a break of at least 30 minutes; such a break may include the break referred to in subsection (1).

(3) The Minister may by regulations provide, as respects a specified class or classes of employee, that the minimum duration of the break to be allowed to such an employee under subsection (2) shall be more than 30 minutes (but not more than 1 hour).

(4) A break allowed to an employee at the end of the working day shall not be regarded as satisfying the requirement contained in subsection (1) or (2).


A further issue over praying during working hours generally arises with those of a particular faith that are required to pray at specific times of the day if those times fall within 'working hours'. Employers should consider the needs of all employees and welcome colleagues to come forward and discuss their specific needs in order for the company to understand and work to accommodate their needs were possible.

Depending on the nature of the work and the needs of the business, employers may not be able to accommodate a break at a particular time, but they need to be clear to the employee as to the business justification as to why they cannot specifically allocate their break at that time. Permitting requests from employees, however for an increased break allowance for prayer in addition to their normal permitted breaks, could be seen as treating them more favourably than others who do not make requests for prayer. Employers should consider if they allow smokers have additional smoking breaks, which disadvantages non-smokers.

In summary, unless there is a specific business justification as to why they cannot permit an employee to use their entitled breaks to pray, there could be in contravention of the Equality Act by refusing to allow prayer on the premises. Employers should try to have an understanding of the relevant faith ritual that the employee presents to them and seek to accommodate the employee's desire to engage in those rituals; if they cannot be accommodated, make sure there is a legitimate business reason for not doing so.


The Gender Pay Gap Information Act 2021 and the Code of Practice on Equal Pay is in place since March 2022 states that;

  • Irish equality law provides for nine protected grounds on the basis of which a person must not be paid any less. They are: gender; marital status; family status; age; disability; sexual orientation; race; religion; and membership of the Traveller community.
  • An employee who is performing work that is the same, similar or of equal value to that of another person employed by the same employer, and who differs in respect of one or more of nine protected grounds, has a right to be paid the same as that other person.
  • The Code provides guidance to help employers identify pay inequality and to eliminate it, including on how to conduct a pay review which incorporates a rational and objective job evaluation model.
  • The employer benefits of pay equity include avoiding legal costs, promoting staff retention, increasing morale and productivity. The Code sets out how someone who considers that they are not being paid equal pay for their like work, should raise this internally at first before then proceeding if necessary to the Workplace Relations Commission or Courts.

The regulations will require organisations with over 250 employees to report on their gender pay gap in 2022.

Employers will choose a ‘snapshot’ date of their employees in June 2022 and will report on the hourly gender pay gap for those employees on the same date in December 2022.

The information employers will be asked to include in their report:

  • The mean and median hourly wage gap, the former reflecting the entire pay range in an organisation and the latter excluding the impact of unusually high earners.
  • Data on bonus pay.
  • The mean and median pay gaps for part-time employees and for employees on temporary contracts.
  • The proportions of male and female employees in the lower, lower middle, upper middle and upper quartile pay bands.

This threshold will drop to 150 employees in 2024 and 50 employees in 2025. Therefore, even if an organisation was not required to report in 2022, it is important to ensure they have the necessary internal systems in place to capture, analyse and report this information going forward, particularly if their employee population increases to over 250 in 2023.

Employers are also required to publish a statement setting out, in the employers’ opinion, the reasons for the gender pay gap in their company and what measures are being taken or proposed to be taken by the employer to eliminate or reduce that pay gap.



For most people, holding a door open is nothing more than common courtesy. However, if someone takes offence at this, it would be sensible not to do it. To avoid any claims of sexism, it might be a good idea (and good manners) to hold the door open for everyone, regardless of their gender.

It is your responsibility by law to make sure your employees are not subject to racist language that they may believe offensive or inappropriate (even if the language is not directly targeted at anyone). You should make it clear to all your employees that such language is not tolerated in the workplace and could lead to disciplinary action. Consider developing a code of conduct that bans racist behaviour and the use of such language, and identifies it as gross misconduct. By having a code of conduct that you can enforce, you can help protect yourself from allegations of racial harassment (see the Equal Opportunities Policy Template).

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