31/07/2001

New sex discrimination legislation to be introduced in August

New legislation to improve clarity and fairness in sex discrimination cases in Northern Ireland has been passed and is due to take effect from 20 August 2001.

Sex discrimination legislation now includes a definition of indirect discrimination, and clarifies where the burden of proof lies in sex discrimination cases.

In future where the tribunal is satisfied that there is a case to be answered, the respondent - in most cases the employer - will have to prove that there has been no discrimination.

Commenting on the new legislation Sir Reg Empey said: "This new legislation has been introduced to comply with an EU Directive and brings Northern Ireland into line with proposals with the rest of the UK. What we have done today is to improve in the process whereby men and women who feel they have not been treated equally can seek redress."

Seamus Mallon said the legislation would assist with the conduct of such cases: "These Regulations are an important new measure which shows the commitment of the administration to the equality agenda. They will help clarify the way in which sex discrimination cases are handled. They will guide the tribunal in the way it handles the weight of evidence when there appears to be a discrimination case to answer, and they clarify the definition of indirect discrimination. This measure represents another step towards improving equality of opportunity and tackling discrimination in our society."

These changes have been made through the Sex Discrimination (Indirect Discrimination and Burden of Proof) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001. The Regulations implement in Northern Ireland the European Union Burden of Proof Directive, and apply to cases concerning employment and vocational training. (AMcE)

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