Discrimination when hiring

Fair treatment is not just a moral and legal obligation but makes good business sense. Employers who treat employees fairly will be best placed to recruit and retain staff in an increasingly diverse and competitive labour market.

Employers' Legal duty

Employers have a legal duty to ensure that they do not treat an individual less favourably on any grounds relating to:

  • age;
  • gender;
  • marital status;
  • disability;
  • race/nationality;
  • sexual orientation;
  • religious belief; or
  • political opinion.

This applies not just in access to employment but during the employment relationship and after the employment relationship has come to an end.  

Types of Discrimination

Discrimination can occur in three ways:

  1. Direct discrimination — treating a person less favourably on any of the grounds outlined above.  An example would be not appointing a female to a top job because the preference is for a male.
  2. Indirect discrimination — this occurs where a provision, criterion or practice is applied which, although applied equally to all, has the effect of unjustifiably disadvantaging a particular group.  An example would be rules about clothing or uniforms that disadvantage a racial group and cannot be justified.
  3. Victimisation — treating a person less favourably because they have either previously taken action in relation to discrimination or have assisted or been involved in action taken by someone else in relation to discrimination.

For more detailed information on discrimination when hiring and discrimination generally, see the link to the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland in the ‘External Links’ section.

Recruiting people with conflict-related convictions

Guidance exists for all employers in the public, private and voluntary sectors on recruiting people with conflict-related convictions.  The guidance is designed to assist employers in following best practice when recruiting people with conflict-related convictions. It can be accessed by clicking on the link in the ‘Related tools and publications’ section.   

Last updated: 28 October 2021