Committee Reports::Report No. 06 - Equality From Employment Equality Agency to Equality Authority::18 November, 1996::Appendix


Researcher’s Report

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Women’s Rights

Equality - From Employment Equality Agency to Equality Authority

A Report to the Joint Committee by Michael McGinley

18 November 1996


The main points in this report are:

1.The statistics on trends in the pay of women cover only 17% of women, those in manufacturing. There is no information on how women are faring overall.

2.The Employment Equality Agency was set up in 1977 to work towards the elimination of discrimination against women in employment and to promote equality of opportunity in employment. The EEA at present has 13 staff and costs almost £0.5m a year to run.

3.The resources of the EEA have been inadequate down the years. There is little hard evidence on its effectiveness. It has had positive results in several areas but may lack influence over the really crucial decisions affecting women at work.

4.A Bill to set up a new Equality Authority passed it second stage in the Dail on 24 October 1996. At present there are two grounds for discrimination complaints under the Employment Equality Act, 1977, gender and marital status. The new Bill proposes to introduce seven more - family status, sexual orientation, religious belief, age, disabilities, race and membership of the travelling community. This extension brings to nine the number of grounds for discrimination complaints in the employment area. Many of the grounds for discrimination mentioned here are already specified under the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977 - 1993.

5.A further Bill - the Equal Status Bill- is being drafted and is expected to appear before Christmas 1996. This will seek to eliminate discrimination on any of the nine grounds in a much wider area of society - in education, the provision of goods, the disposal of property and services, including recreational services. The Equality Authority will be responsible for this area.

6.It is difficult to say how much work the two Acts, when passed, will generate, especially the Status Bill that has not yet appeared. It is expected that the groups which will be most active in pursuit of their new rights are the disabled, travellers and gay men and lesbians who are well organised. There is a danger that gender discrimination may get less attention in future unless special steps are taken to keep it prominent.

7.The National Rehabilitation Board should be of great assistance to the Equality Authority in its dealings with the disabled in view of their expertise in this highly specialised field.

8.It is tentatively estimated that the Equality Authority will need a maximum of 40 staff, compared with the EEA’s 13. New accommodation will be needed, enhanced computer facilities, a major expansion in research which has been neglected and finance for comprehensive publicity campaigns when the new Acts come into operation. The new Authority could cost up to £1.7m a year, depending on its staffing requirements. The EEA should be given much greater autonomy in the hiring of its own staff and in the general control of its funds.

Recommendations on Setting Up

The following recommendations refer to the setting up phase of the new Equality Authority:

(1)Advance arrangements should be put in hand immediately to ensure that the Equality Authority will be operational at the earliest possible date.

(2)A set-up team based in the Employment Equality Agency should make careful projections of interim and ultimate staff needs without delay. New staffing structures should be designed.

(3)The Chief Executive of the Equality Authority and its Principal-level managers should be appointed as soon as possible so that they will have an input into the setting up arrangements.

(4)A search for a new premises should begin forthwith. The first step is to specify accommodation requirements as precisely as possible despite the uncertainties.

(5)Plans for enhanced computer and communication systems should be drawn up.

(6)Advanced planning for publicity on the new legislation should be advanced in cooperation with representative bodies.

(7) The importance of discrimination based on gender and marital and family status must be given appropriate priority in the Authority’s planning.

(8)All the staff of the new Authority should be recruited by the Authority itself. Civil servants should be encouraged to apply and secondment arrangements should be arranged on an acceptable basis.



18 November 1996

Part 1 - Terms of Reference and Approach

The terms of reference for the project, as set out in the Joint Committee’s invitation to submit proposals for research, are as follows:

“… the Joint Committee wishes to undertake an examination of the present role of the Employment Equality Agency and the proposed Equality Authority in its effectiveness at addressing areas of discrimination against and equality for women.

Particular attention should be given to the analysis of the structural requirements in the context of the extended role of the Agency/Authority under employment equality and equal status legislation currently planned. The completed work should include appropriate recommendations in respect of future structural and resource needs (e.g. funding, staffing and accommodation)”.

These terms of reference require the report to address three central issues:

(i)The effectiveness of the present Employment Equality Agency in addressing discrimination against women and equality for women,

(ii)The likely effectiveness of the proposed Equality Authority in this area, and

(iii)The structural requirements and resource needs of the new Equality Authority.

It should be noted that major changes are planned in the role and function of the Employment Equality Agency under the Employment Equality Bill, 1996 and the Equal Status Bill, expected to be published later in 1996. Under the Employment Equality Bill it is proposed to change the name of the Agency to “Equality Authority” and to extend its remit in employment to cover, in addition to the present grounds of gender and marital status, seven new grounds:

1) Family status 2) Sexual orientation 3) Religious belief 4) Age 5) Disability

6) Race, colour, nationality or ethnic or national origin. 7) Membership of the travelling community.

Some of these categories are already covered by employment law in the unfair dismissals context. The Unfair Dismissals Act, 1977 provided that dismissal is unfair if it results from religious or political opinions or race or colour of an employee. The Unfair Dismissals (Amendment) Act, 1993 added sexual orientation, age and membership of the travelling community to that list.

A totally new focus will be given to the proposed new Equality Authority under the Equal Status Bill, yet to be published. Its remit will extend to discrimination against people on any of the nine grounds in education, the provision of goods, facilities and services (including recreational facilities and services, entertainment, accommodation, transport and professional services) and in the disposal of accommodation and other premises.

Approach to the Project

The Joint Committee had stressed that it was essential to present the report to them no later than 31 October 1996. This imposed a time discipline on the investigations in that the job had to be completed in 29 days. Relevant literature was studied and interviews were held with EEA staff and other experts in discrimination. The main books and reports consulted are listed in the bibliography to this report. Some EEA files were also examined. EEA staff were most helpful in extracting relevant material from Agency files.

While the literature was being studied interviews were completed with Agency staff. Each member of the staff was interviewed for about an hour and a brief questionnaire on work and experience was completed by each member. The interviews and questionnaire were completed with an assurance of absolute confidentiality. This part of the exercise provided useful information on the evolution of the Agency. It also gave a clear picture of present activities and controversies. The Chair of the EEA, Kate Hayes, and two Board members, John Doherty and Margaret Nolan, were also interviewed.

Representatives of bodies outside the EEA who will be affected by the new legislation and some others were interviewed. The aim was to become more familiar with their activities and to get a feel for their expectations of the impending legislation. The main organisations with which contact was made are listed in Table 1. Interviews were held with more than one person from some of the organisations -listed.

Table 1. Organisations outside the EEA

1. Department of Equality and Law Reform

2. Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN)

3. Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC)

4. Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU)

5. National Rehabilitation Board

6. National Women’s Council of Ireland

7. Pavee Point Travellers’ Centre

8. Rights Commissioner Service of the Labour Relations Commission

In the case of ICTU and IBEC two of the representatives of these bodies who are on the EEA Board were interviewed. Two prominent Dublin auctioneering firms advised on accommodation matters.

It will be apparent that, given the wide scope of the impending legislation, many more organisations could have been consulted had time allowed. The consultations and the desk research taken together, however, give some insights into the magnitude of the tasks facing the proposed Equality Authority.

Part 2 - Discrimination - The Economic Context

On the basis that “a rising tide lifts all boats” it may be accepted that the state of the economy affects efforts to reduce discrimination. A booming economy will not necessarily ensure progress but it is unlikely that much progress will be made towards eliminating discrimination when the economy is sluggish or in decline. Table 2 and Figures 1, 2 and 3 [Leddin and Walsh (1995)] show trends in GNP, unemployment and inflation 1977 - 1995.

Table 2 Real GNP, Unemployment and Inflation 1977 - 1995


Real GNP




growth rate



















































































Note: e=estimate and f=forecast.


Real GNP: Department of Finance, Databank of Economic Time Series (1987) and National Income and Expenditure, various issues. There is a discontinuity in the series in 1986.

Unemployment rate: The Trend of Employment and Unemployment and Labour Force Survey, various issues.

Inflation: Statistical Bulletin, October 1993, Consumer Price Index, Table 4.

All data for 1994 and 1995 are Central Bank of Ireland forecasts.

Figure 1 Rate of growth in real GNP 1963 - 1995

Figure 2 Rate of Inflation 1922 - 1995

Figure 3 Unemployment rate 1961 - 1995

[Labour Force Survey basis]

It will be observed that when the EEA began to operate in October 1977 the country was in the grip of a second bout of massive inflation which was to last until 1983. The period 1980 - 1985 was the worst period for economic growth since the end of World War II. It was not until 1986 that economic prospects improved with GNP rising and inflation coming under control. But the unemployment rate which depends on net new job creation and emigration has remained stubbornly high since 1982.

Women in Employment

It is clear from many publications on employment that women are much more involved in paid employment than in the past. It is not always clear that this is leading to less discrimination for women. Nolan’s (1992) work on low pay suggests that women have a long way to go before they cease to be exploited. It is greatly to be regretted that there are no satisfactory indicators of progress made by women in the pay area, arguably the most important condition of work. The figures usually quoted to show developments are the Central Statistics Office figures for adult women and men in manufacturing industry. Only 17% of women at work are employed in this area so the figures tell us nothing about the other 83%. Table 3 and Figure 4 based on Blackwell (1989) and Durkan (1995, corrected), updated to 1995, show how the hourly earnings of adult women engaged in manual worker in manufacturing industry have compared with those of men in similar work since 1977.

Table 3 Average Gross Hourly Earnings in Manufacturing Industry Adult Manual Workers



Men (£s)

Women (£s)

Women as





Percentage of Men









































New series begins





From 1985 the





series covers firms





with 10 or more





workers.The old





series covered





firms with 3





or more




















Figure 4 Average Earnings in Manufacturing 1977 - 1995 Female Hourly Rates as % of Men’s

Callan and Wren (1992 and 1994) estimated that the average hourly earnings of all employed women in Ireland in 1987 was £4.27 or 80.1% of men’s hourly earnings. This estimate was based on figures from the ESRI Survey of Income Distribution, Poverty and Usage of State Services - a survey in 1987 based on a sample of almost 1,800 men and over 1,000 women employees. There is no information as to how this figure has moved since 1987 - women in manufacturing improved by 5.7 percentage points relative to men 1987 - 1995. All estimates based on samples are subject to a margin of error but the margins are usually not disclosed. The Callan and Wren estimate of 80.1% for 1987 needs further scrutiny. Research by Nolan (1992), McMahon (1990) and others show that women are considerably over represented in the low pay area. The information gap on trends in women’s pay greatly hampers rational discussion of the position of women at work. Other figures such as those showing increased participation by women, especially married women, in the workforce are useful but pay is a crucial dimension which has been neglected in research.

Part 3 - The Effectiveness of the Employment Equality Agency

The 1977 Act

The Agency was described in 1985 as “a unique statutory body, which has been given very important functions and powers under the Acts, but which is consistently under-funded so that it cannot properly discharge its statutory functions” (Robinson, 1985). Indeed the EEA itself in its very first Annual Report complained about lack of funding:

“The Agency felt constrained in its activities in the period under review [October 1977 - December 1978] by the limitations imposed on it by the insufficient Exchequer Grant under which it operated. The main effects of the budgetary constraints were that ....... the Agency could not commission research ........ and two of its [ten] staff posts were left unfilled”

The Employment Equality Act, 1977 (section 35) defines the general functions of the EEA as follows:

(a) to work towards the elimination of discrimination in relation to employment, and

(b) to promote equality of opportunity between men and women in relation to employment.

The Agency is also required to keep the working of the Anti-Discrimination (Pay) Act, 1974 and the Employment Equality Act, 1977 under review and, where it thinks fit, to make proposals for change to the Minister.

The Board and its Staff

The composition of the Board of the Agency is similar to that of many of the bodies set up under the aegis of the former Department of Labour - two workers’ members (ICTU), two employers’ members (IBEC), three representative of women’s organisations (National Women’s Council) and three nominated by the Minister. Among the Minister’s nominees on the present Board is the Principal from the Minister’s Department with responsibility for the EEA. The present Board was set up in November 1992 with Ms Kate Hayes in the Chair. She had been Vice-Chair of the previous Board since 1988. The present Chief Executive, Carmel Foley, was appointed in April 1993, succeeding Sylvia Meehan whose term of office expired in October 1992, having served as Chair/Chief Executive 1977 - 1987 and as Chief Executive 1988 - 1992.

Apart from the Chief Executive the EEA is staffed by civil servants virtually all from the parent department, the Department of Labour until its demise in 1993 and now from the Department of Equality and Law Reform. In effect the EEA is treated for staffing purposes as if it were a section in the Department with officers being transferred in and out of it from time to time. The Chief Executive can influence staffing arrangements but in a manner not much different from a Principal in other sections in the Department. The old Department of Labour was, perhaps, big enough to provide a reasonable pool of talent for the EEA. But the Department of Equality and Law Reform is so small that it could hardly be expected to make effective staffing arrangements for the EEA if expansion or several transfers at once were needed. Indeed the present situation is far from satisfactory with the EEA being entirely dependant on the Department’s priorities. It is not open to civil servants in other Departments to get a direct transfer to the EEA. Overall the rigidities of the present staffing system are a real problem for the EEA.

Table 4 shows the organisation of the EEA in August 1996.

Table 4 EEA Organisation Chart August 1996

The Board [11 Members. Appointed in November 1992]

Appointed by the Minister for Labour: Kate Hayes, Chair

Nominated by IBEC: John Doherty, Vice-Chair, Marie Moynihan

Nominated by ICTU: Noirin Greene; Margaret Nolan

Nominated by the Minister as representative of women’s organisations: Carol Fawsitt; Kathleen O’Sullivan; Anne Taylor

Nominated by the Minister: Brian Fitzpatrick; Lenore Mrkwicka; Miriam O’Callaghan


Civil Service




Level [Nos.]




- [Max. of scale




on 1 Oct, 1996




£s a year]








Principal [1]


Chief Executive







Policy and

Legal Section

and Promotion



Assistant Chief

Assistant Chief

Legal Adviser

Principal [2]




[Job Share]

[Job Share]






Equal Opportunities

Senior Casework


Promotion Officer


Officer [3]

[£24,833 -


Information Officer


Maternity Information


Casework Officer

Officer [4]



[£20,436 -


Finance Officer


Officer [1]

Assistant Casework Officer


(Two, job Sharing)





Clerical Assistant [2]

Clerical Assistant/Typist







Total Number: 13

EEA Activities

The activities of the EEA in 1995 are conveniently summarised by its Chief Executive in the EEA’s 1995 Annual Report, reproduced below:

“The past year was a busy one for the EEA staff, with the development of new initiatives and a big demand for our existing range of services.

Legal • Our legal service helped over 500 people who felt they were being discriminated against on the basis of their gender or marital status. The biggest single problem was sexual harassment, accounting for over a quarter of the total legal queries. This tells us to intensify efforts to combat this reprehensible form of discriminatory treatment.

A striking feature of the legal work was the high number of cases which resulted in settlements. EEA successfully settled thirty-three cases, with a variety of measures acceptable to the people concerned. Fifteen cases involved financial compensation and the total amount paid out was £90,000. This reflects the high cost to employers who operate or permit discriminatory practices in their workplaces.

Twenty-six persons requested EEA to process their cases right through to the Labour Court or Equality Officer, and to provide representation to argue their cases. The EEA Board decided that representation should be provided in fifteen cases, on the basis of strategic priorities. Of the decisions which issued in 1995, EEA represented in one-third of Labour Court decisions under the Employment Equality Act, in 1977, and in a quarter of Equality Officers decisions under the same act.

Maternity Information • Some fifteen hundred queries were received seeking information on rights under the new Maternity Protection Act. We were glad to clarify many aspects of the new legislation for pregnant workers, for their employers and trade unions.

Information and Research • Our information service handled a wide range of requests and also initiated research, seminars and publications. Through our periodical Equality News, we aimed to update interested parties on equality developments in Ireland and at European level. We also published a research report on Women in the Labour Force and a summary of it. The EEA reference library facilitated many practitioners during the year and I am happy to repeat the invitation to anyone who may benefit from a visit.

Promotion of Equal Opportunities • Our promotion activities were stepped up by our management of a project in two employment sectors throughout the year, in partnership with the employers and trade unions concerned. This project was possible because of financial assistance under the innovation heading of the European Social Fund. I congratulate Dublin Corporation and IMPACT union as our public sector partners, and Superquinn and MANDATE union representing the private sector, for their willingness to undertake the project.We look forward to disseminating the results and benefits throughout the local authority and retail sectors.

European Links • Links with the European Commission were strengthened through joint activities and participation on the Advisory Committee on Equal Opportunities, which enables EEA to influence European policy-makers. I was happy to serve as Vice President in 1995 and to chair a working group during the year. We value our co-operation with other member states and the Institutions of the European Union. EEA agrees with the European Commission that the mainstreaming of equality into all policies and procedures should be implemented at national and European level.

In the coming year we, as EEA staff, are committed to continuing to improve our level of service to all who avail of it, and to work in co-operation with all organisations, institutions and groups involved in the areas covered by our legislation.”

A major concern of the EEA is helping people who have suffered discrimination at work because of gender or marital status. The four staff members in the Legal Section carry out this work. The other main activity is giving information to enquirers and raising awareness of gender discrimination in the workplace by a variety of means e.g. the EEA magazine “Equality News”, brochures, talks, projects in major employments with financial assistance from the EU. The EEA Chair and Chief Executive attend several functions as part of their representational work. The Chief Executive also serves on an EU Advisory Committee.

How Effective is the EEA?

Three models may be used in examining the efforts to reduce discrimination against women at work and in society generally down the years:

1.The confrontation model - the basic stance is one of attack. A “sore thumb” approach is taken in which major examples of discrimination are vigorously highlighted. Those responsible for discrimination are confronted directly and in the media. The aim is to make discrimination in the work place socially unacceptable. This was a model widely practised with some success by the suffragettes in the early part of this century, most startlingly in the altruistic suicide of Emily Davidson who threw herself in front of the king’s horse in the Derby of 1913.

2.The consensus for advance model - the aim here is to achieve real progress by a policy of persuading the parties affected to cooperate in reducing discrimination. This model accepts as normal tough opposition to discrimination. Confrontation is not excluded as long as it does not become counter-productive. Progress is to be made by winning agreement to the view that discrimination is not acceptable in a mature society. Discrimination at work is best tackled by workers and employers agreeing on the goal to be achieved. In an attitude of mutual respect the tactics to be adopted in particular cases are left to the parties. Trust is the hallmark of this model. It is similar in many ways to the pluralist position in industrial relations which accepts that disputes may arise from time to time.

3.The consensus for a quiet life model - the prime target here is not to “rock the boat”. The effort to reduce discrimination must not lead to conflict. In effect those involved have a silent contract allowing a veto on policy and tactics to any of the parties. Progress is accepted as inherently slow but this is accepted so that all involved can enjoy a quiet life, except those suffering discrimination.

Models are simply ways of looking at things. Do these models help in arriving at a view on the effectiveness of the EEA? No one would suggest that the confrontation model is even remotely applicable. The consensus for advance model has some applicability to the EEA. It would be most regrettable if the EEA drifted into the consensus for a quiet life model. It is not easy for an organisation to keep chipping away at discrimination unless morale is maintained by demonstrated success.

Three aspects of the Board’s day-to-day work give cause for concern - research, investigations under Section 39 of the 1977 Act and Board supervision of legal assistance for certain aggrieved clients. The Board has for many years been aware of its inability to do appropriate research. The most plaintive expression of its frustration is perhaps its Chapter on research in the 1989 Annual Report. The Chapter has only four sentences including the statement -“The EEA has been unable, however, because of funding restrictions in 1989 to commission new research and the continued embargo on the recruitment of a research officer has meant that in-house activity under this heading has been limited”. A research officer was never appointed. The EEA has supported some research but there is little evidence of a planned programme. In 1995 some effective research was done with EU support but such support is by no means guaranteed in the future. The result of the neglect of research is that the Board in evaluating its own performance has to rely on impressions rather than objective data.

The EEA’s power to conduct formal investigations (Section 39 of the 1977 Act) has potential for advancing equality but seems to be rarely used, perhaps due to lack of resources.

Requests to the EEA’s legal service for support in bringing claims before the Equality Officers/Labour Court are considered by both a Strategic Enforcement and Legislation Committee and the Board itself. In 1995 of 26 requests for assistance the Board granted 15 and turned down 11. There is controversy as to whether the EEA should provide representation when the person seeking to bring a case to the Equality Officer/Labour Court is a member of a trade union. It is surprising that individual requests should be debated at sub-Committee and Board level on the basis of exhaustive documentation prepared by EEA staff. Decisions in this area would seem to be appropriated for senior officials of the EEA, if necessary in accordance with broad policy guidelines approved by the Board. It is not helpful to have the Board diverted from policy issues to consideration of day-to-day operational issues.

Criteria for Success

The general functions given to the EEA under the 1977 Act are very wide in scope and can be interpreted in a variety of ways. The annual reports of the Board since 1977 show how the various Boards of the Agency have interpreted their role and how they have fulfilled their other specific functions. What criteria can be evolved to enable the EEA itself and society at large to assess its success? A major problem arises as discrimination has many obscure causes. Reduction in discrimination will arise from many influences and it is most difficult to isolate the contribution of the EEA. On the enforcement side the Legal Section’s record with cases in the Labour Court and with Equality Officers provides a possible measure of success. The record shows [Gunnigle et al (1995)] that cases on pay discrimination are no longer frequent and are rarely successful. Cases under the 1977 Act picked up after a decline in the late 1980s. The success rate was lower in 1995 than in recent years. Assessing the EEA’s Legal Section on the basis of success at Equality Officer/Labour Court level may not be valid. Not all the cases were brought by the EEA but most of them had EEA advice. Crude success figures do not highlight the importance of some cases from a precedent viewpoint. The Legal Section seems quite effective in its operation but a more proactive role in selecting cases for support seems indicated.

The general functions of the EEA in promoting equality and reducing discrimination at work are central to its mission. However, a close examination of the effect of Family Friendly Initiatives and of campaigns such as that on sexual harassment is not possible without a research presence in the EEA. In the absence of research one is driven back to rough and ready indicators such as trends in the ratio of women’s pay to men’s, women’s participation in the workforce and the extent of low pay. The problem here is that progress in these areas may have more to do with the advance of the economy and the changing nature of work than to any EEA initiatives. There is a major problem in the pay field due to the dearth of sound information on trends but most would agree that women have a long way to go in the equality stakes. The Report of the Second Commission on the Status of Women made 12 recommendations on women at work, some of them very detailed. Progress with the implementation of the recommendations could be used as another criterion for the EEA’s success. Given the importance of the PNR, the PESP and the PCW to women one would expect to see the EEA adopting a proactive stand on women’s issues in this context. The ICTU Report for 1993 -1995 notes that there had been significant growth in the Irish economy during the previous two years but that “this has not been matched in terms of progress on the key economic and social issues facing women workers such as women’s access to the labour market, equal pay, low pay and childcare facilities”.


In summary it may be said that the EEA has played an effective role in enforcing women’s rights by taking cases to the Equality Officer and the Labour Court. The evidence to assess its role generally in tackling discrimination and promoting equality at work is lacking. Given its lack of resources and its relatively low profile when crucial decisions affecting women are being taken it may well be that the EEA is less effective than it ought to be.

Part 4 - The Equality Authority

The New Legislation

The second stage of the Employment Equality Bill, 1996 was introduced in the Dail on 23 October and passed on the following day. It now goes to Committee where it is likely that many amendments will have to be considered. At present the 1974 and 1977 Acts prohibit discrimination in employment on two grounds - gender and marital status. The new Bill adds seven more grounds - family status, sexual orientation, religious belief, age, disability, race (including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin) and membership of the travelling community. The EEA is to be renamed the Equality Authority and will have responsibility for helping to reduce discrimination in employment on all nine grounds. Its role will include helping people who feel they are discriminated against on one or more of the nine grounds to seek redress. A new office of Director of Equality Investigations is to be created in the Labour Relations Commission with powers of investigation. Equality Officers and Equality Mediation Officers will be attached to this office. The extension of the grounds for discrimination in employment greatly extends the EEA’s role. Apart from the huge increase in numbers many more men will be involved in discrimination claims. At present discrimination against men in employment is relatively rare.

A new Equal Status Bill is at present being drafted and is expected to be ready in 1996. This Bill will cover discrimination outside the workplace. It will prohibit discrimination on any of the nine grounds in education, the provision of goods, the disposal of accommodation or other premises and facilities and services (including recreational facilities and services, entertainment, accommodation, transport and professional services. The Second Commission on the Status of Women recommended in 1993 that non-work discrimination based on sex or marital/parental status be forbidden in an Equal Status Act. The details of the new Bill have not yet been released. A statement from the Department of Equality and Law Reform dated 6 November 1994 and evidence by the Secretary of that Department to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Small Business and Services give some information on the Bill. It is proposed that the Equality Authority will, for the first time, have responsibilities in relation to non-work discrimination. People discriminated against will have a right to take an action to the Courts. Alternatively they may, presumably with the assistance of the Equality Authority, seek redress from new Equal Status Officers with power to seek a solutions by mediation or by issuing determinations, with an appeal to the District Court.

Powers of the Equality Authority

The powers of the new Authority in its vastly expanded field of operation have not yet been defined. Sections 69 - 73 of the Employment Authority Bill contain “further provisions relating to the Authority” but the proposed Equal Status Bill is awaited to see what the Authority’s final statutory position will be. This Report proceeds on the basis that its powers in the employment area will not be significantly altered and that its legal position in relation to non-work discrimination will be broadly similar to its present position in the work area.

The Extended Role of the New Authority

Before any conclusions can be drawn about the likely role of the new Authority a brief survey is needed of the new areas in which it will be involved. Each of the areas will be looked at in turn both in relation work and non-work discrimination. The crucial aspect is how much discrimination do each of the categories suffer in the area to be covered - education, the provision of goods, the disposal of accommodation or other premises and facilities and services (including recreational facilities and services, entertainment, accommodation, transport and professional services. This is virtually impossible to assess but one must assume that there is considerable discrimination to be borne. The number of people who are likely to seek the Authority’s help in tackling their problems is also speculative. It may be asserted, however, the perceived effectiveness of the Authority will be a crucial issue especially in the early years of the operation of the new Acts.

Gender and Marital Status

These grounds for discrimination are already covered in the workplace. The EEA’s experience suggests that after nearly 20 years of close attention there is still a long way to go before its work is done. The demand for the EEA’s services in its traditional area may well rise with increasing consciousness of discrimination generally and the inevitable raising of the Authority’s profile when the new Acts are in operation.

The Second Commission on the Status of Women rehearsed many of the areas where people suffer discrimination on gender or marital status grounds outside the workplace. It is likely that it is women who suffer most discrimination based on gender and marital status outside as well as inside the workplace. The Equal Status Bill does not cover all areas of discrimination but if the new Authority is to be a success its services will be in demand in a vastly wider field than in the high profile problem of women being refused full membership of golf clubs. Northern Ireland has had for some years legislation similar to that now proposed for the Republic. The experience north of the Border is that about 95% of complaints based on gender and marital status arise in the workplace. It may well be that complaints in the non-work area will not be especially high in this jurisdiction either.

Family Status

Changing social norms have seen a big increase in the number of people in difficult family circumstances. Single parent families are becoming more common with the breakdown of marriages and the growth in births outside marriage. In 1994 almost 10,000 babies were born to single mothers- 20% of total births. Great social problems may arise for single mothers, especially if they are poor.. Such women often have great difficulty with child care if they get a job and the age-old discrimination against unmarried mothers in society generally is by no means gone. There will be explicit prohibition of discrimination based on family status both in work and outside work in the areas covered. It is not clear if this ground of discrimination will also extend to carers of the old. This too may be a growing category as family size decreases.

Sexual Orientation

GLEN (1995) and ICCL (1990) have produced two useful books on lesbians and gay men. This is a group which has suffered severe discrimination down the years. Indeed it is only recently that male homosexual activity has been decriminalised. It is estimated that about 10% of the population are potentially covered by the provisions on sexual orientation. Due to the widespread discrimination which may have been added to in recent times by fears of HIV, many lesbians and gay men do not “come out” (reveal their sexual orientation). Some do not even come out at home while very many do not do so at work. The numbers who have come out are unknown but it must be expected that the number will rise especially if the two Acts help to reduce the risk of so doing. The problems in reducing discrimination in this area will be great given the level of discrimination experienced.

Religious Belief

MacGreil (1980 and 1996, forthcoming) examined in great detail prejudice in Ireland. He concludes that the perception of great disadvantage in the workplace based on religion is insignificant. Traditionally it was often felt the some “protestant firms” had a bias against roman catholics while other perceptions were that certain religious groups tried to favour their members in selection and promotion. Apart from the major christian denominations those in small minority religions in Ireland or in no religion may suffer at the hands of the majority or, indeed, the reverse could be the case also.


In the Programme for Economic and Social Progress (1991) the Government undertook to raise recruitment age limits in the public service and a 50-year limit was introduced for many competitions. This move is a partial response to what has been called “ageism” - unnecessary discrimination against people due to their age. Prejudice on age grounds can work both ways. Indeed the Irish constitution has a lower age-limit of 35 for the position of President. The new legislation will outlaw age discrimination both at work and in specified areas in society. The EEA gets some enquiries from people who feel they have been unjustly dealt with at work due to their age but it is most difficult to estimate the level of discrimination in the workplace on age grounds not to mention society generally.


The Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities engaged in a most detailed process of consultation with disabled people. An interim Council for the Status of People with Disabilities was set up with panels representative of sensory impairment (mainly sight and hearing problems), mental health, physical disability and learning disability (mainly mental handicap, a term that is now discouraged). The National Rehabilitation Board has had the closest association with people with disabilities for almost 30 years. It has an impressive programme of assessment, training, job placement and research. The NRB research programme in 1995 included a study, Costs of Disability, on how disabilities affect living standards and lifestyles, how people with disabilities manage their incomes and deal with the issues they face in their daily lives. The NRB’s expertise and the Commission’s report will be invaluable to the new Equality Authority.

Race, Colour, Nationality, Ethnic or National Origins

This ground is described in the Bill as the ground of race. While there are relatively few coloured people in Ireland there is a fair mixture of foreign races e.g. British, USA, French, Bosnian, Arabs many practising the Muslim religion. It is not likely that there will be a large number of complaints in this area. But with the increasing spread of foreign-owned businesses it is possible that the new Authority will have some allegations of discrimination based on race in the workplace and elsewhere. Outside the workplace there may, for example, be complaints about refusal to let accommodation or about overcharging for accommodation.

The Travelling Community

There are some 4,100 travelling families in Ireland with a total of 20-25,000 persons. It is one of the smallest of the groups mentioned in the Bill but the problems are formidable and have resisted solution down the years. Travellers continue to experience severe discrimination. A Task Force on the Travelling Community reported in July 1995 and is referred to in the Strategy Paper on the Labour Market published by the Department of Enterprise and Employment in April 1996. The Task Force believe that the challenges under the new legislation cannot be met merely by expanding existing institutions. The report stresses the need for a specific body of expertise to be brought to bear in each area. It recommends that the new Equality Authority should be comprised of an Employment Board and a Non-employment Board. The Employment Board should include representation from Traveller organisations while the Non-employment Board should, it recommends, include both Travellers and Traveller organisations. The Non-employment Board is recommended to have a distinct Traveller unit. The Equality Authority should be able to recruit outside the civil service. The role planned for the District Court is not appropriate for Travellers. Many other detailed recommendations are made.

Conclusions on the Groups

It would be quite impossible to forecast how many discrimination complaints will be generated by each of the groups. It cannot even be said how much discrimination is suffered by the various groups covered. Even in the areas already covered by law - gender and marital status in employment - forecasts of the level of activity over the next few years would be speculative. It is to be noted that there was no great increase in complaints when the Unfair Dismissals Act, 1977 was amended in 1993 to specify that dismissals on grounds of sexual orientation, age or membership of the travelling community be classed as unfair.

Any attempt to list the categories in order of likely magnitude of complaints is difficult. The main problem is that while the gross numbers in each group are roughly known there is no way of knowing how many will come forward. The presence of organised pressure groups are relevant to consciousness of oppression so there can be no guarantee that those most discriminated against will be the most active in efforts to combat the discrimination affecting them. Despite the uncertainties an effort is made below to suggest which groups are likely to create the greatest demands on the new Authority. The three groups gender, marital status and family status are grouped together because of the close links between the types of discrimination they suffer. The group expected to generate the most activity is listed first with the others following in descending order.


1. Gender/marital status/family status (mainly women); 2. Disability; 3. Age; 4. Travellers; 5. Sexual orientation; 6. Religious belief; 7. Race.


1. Disability; 2. Travellers; 3. Gender/marital status/family status (mainly women) - note the Northern Ireland experience; 4. Sexual orientation; 5. Age; 6. Religious belief; 7. Race.

A major difficulty in seeking to reduce discrimination against the various categories is the fact that many of those involved do in fact possess attributes that quite validly require them to be treated differently from others. Examples include the person with a permanent speech defect who wishes to be a TV newsreader or the illiterate person who wants to be a Dail Reporter. Selection for employment or promotion involves rejecting those less suitable. There will be difficulty in demonstrating that all those not selected are genuinely less suitable than those selected. Selection is generally a subjective exercise where objectivity is rarely achievable.

Part 5 - Recommendations

The success of the new efforts to reduce discrimination depends to a considerable degree of the effectiveness of the proposed Equality Authority. The Authority will not be on its own, however. Those who are discriminated against have the strongest motivation to achieve success. Some of the groups have highly effective organisations which the new Authority will, no doubt, be keen to work with. The Authority will be central to many aspects, especially in the enforcement area and in creating public awareness of the need to reject discrimination. It is well to acknowledge, however, that many factors which the Authority cannot greatly influence are still relevant, notably the state of the economy and the deep-rooted prejudices in Irish society on which discrimination is based.

Timing of Implementation

The Minister will have power to bring the legislation into operation on such day as (s)he may fix by order. The option of having different starting dates for different groups should not be ruled out. Phased introduction would have advantages from the viewpoint of effectively informing the public of the major new initiatives. On balance, however, a common starting date for all is probably best in view of likely sensitivities if some groups are given priority over others.


The Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities has reported recently. There is a huge number of disabled people and working effectively with them requires a wide range of very special skills and qualities. The Equality Authority should maintain close liaison with the National Rehabilitation Board to ensure maximum effectiveness. Staff exchanges should be considered.

Structure of the Equality Authority

Before discussing numbers it is well to consider an important structural issue. Should the new Authority be structured into two divisions, one dealing with discrimination at work and the other with non-work discrimination? Or should it be structured on a category basis with, say, four divisions dealing with both work and non-work discrimination for the various groups e.g. for gender/marital status/family status and religion; for disability; for sexual orientation and age, and for travelling people and race. Within each of the four divisions it might be sensible to have two sections, one dealing with enforcement and the other with promotion/publicity. Another alternative would be to have two main divisions, one dealing with publicity/promotion for all groups and the other with enforcement. This would have the disadvantage that the important gender/marital/family status area might be swamped by other groups. It is clear that there will be formidable problems of co-ordination to which considerable energy will have to be devoted by top management. It is recommended that the Authority be structured on a category basis so as to make best use of staff expertise and to avoid swamping the gender category.

The present arrangements for the supply of staff should cease. The Authority itself should be free to advertise for its own staff. Applications from the public service should be welcome, with the possibility of secondments. It will be important that the Authority should recruit suitable staff from among the groups coming within its remit or from people with experience of working with them. The expertise of the staff who have been with the EEA for some time should not be lost. Such staff should be given the option of staying with the new Authority for an agreed length of time. Special arrangements should be made to ensure that officers whom parent departments wish to promote are not deprived of their promotion and are not moved at short notice from the Authority. The Authority should ensure that there is always a leavening of civil servants on its staff so that expertise on the operation of the machinery of government will be available.

The pay of new staff should, perhaps, be linked to the pay of appropriate civil service grades.

Staffing Levels in the Equality Authority

There is great difficulty in estimating with any precision what the workload of the new Authority will be. A small highly expert set-up team should be put in place in the EEA immediately, perhaps led by the Chief Executive, to prepare for the new challenges. It should investigate precise number requirements in close association with the various organisations concerned and come up with considered answers on numbers. It should also deal with all the other staffing issues which will arise on the establishment of the new Authority, notably recruitment and training.

Various attempts have already been made already by the EEA to calculate the staff requirements of the new Authority. Table 5 compares the staffing envisaged in some of these estimates with the present staffing. The estimates are couched in civil service grading terms. It is well to recall the high degree of uncertainty surrounding efforts to quantify staffing levels at this stage. Not only is the Equal Status Bill yet in gestation but there is the greatest difficulty in estimating the amount of work that will arise from the major social intervention envisaged by the two Bills. It is probable, however, that the EEA is the best placed body to make sound estimates, given its expertise in the area.

Table 5 Estimates of Staff Requirements for the Equality Authority

Civil Service

Present EEA





Grade Level

August 1996





[Max of scale


for new




£s a year]


























































































































































































It is clear that a substantial expansion is required. The first thing the Authority must do when it is up and running is to mount a massive publicity campaigns to let the public know of the new protections.

In the early years a lot of activity may be expected as long-suppressed grievances emerge. It will probably take a few years before the full impact of the new legislation is felt. The EEA estimate of a complement of 40 might be adopted as a tentative working figure. This may well be on the high side especially taking account of the experience in the unfair dismissals area. The gradings in the EEA estimate may also be a bit top-heavy. The following is a possible scenario:

1 Assistant Secretary, 3 Principals (one of whom would be legally qualified), 5 Assistant Principals, 7 Higher Executive Officers, 8 Executive Officers and 16 at Clerical Officer/Clerical Assistant level..

These tentative estimate should be closely examined by the set-up team and be kept under continuing scrutiny by the new top management of the Employment Authority. The Authority must sail in uncharted waters for several years.

A cadre of 40 would be likely to represent the upper limit of requirements when the Authority is fully operational. This would be built up gradually with, perhaps, special provision for any early bulge in work-load. More detailed examination and emerging experience might well show that a cadre as small as 27 would suffice.

Staff Support

There will be a need for substantial upgrading of the computer system. This needs the attention of computer specialists. A provisional once-off sum of £20,000 is put forward for hardware and software but this may need substantial revision when the full needs are surveyed. The possibility of computer terminals especially in locations outside Dublin, say in libraries, with information on the Authority’s services should be kept in mind.

Provision should be made in the new staff budget for more formal training. Each manager should take sufficient time to plan the on-the-job and off-the-job training of her staff in consultation with staff members themselves. A rule of thumb figure of four days formal training a year for each of the staff would suggest a provision of about £30,000 a year, allowing for some training outside Ireland.


The new Authority should be housed in one premises, possibly sharing with other tenants. No. 36 Upper Mount street (rent about £46,000 a year) must be vacated and new office space rented. The possibility of relocating out of Dublin should be considered. The argument that a Dublin location is essential to facilitate the main centre of population is, of course, telling. If the Authority is to remain in Dublin it may be worthwhile moving away from the city centre to a place where parking is less difficult and rents a bit lower. Rent for office accommodation in a new office block in central Dublin would be about £170,000 a year, allowing for a possible annual service charge. A less plush office away from the centre might be rented for about £140,000 a year. This estimate is based on a staff of 40 and the following guide lines supplied by two prominent auctioneering firms: 200 - 250 square feet per person, £15 - 19 a square foot rent in a new building or £13 - 14 in a refurbished 1970s building. Both firms stressed the escalation of office rents in the last three years. One of the firms had handled the renting of an office to a Government agency in central Dublin for a rent of only £10 a square foot a few years ago. Office space is very scarce now - indeed neither firm had any office space on their books at present. There would be need for sophisticated access and toilet facilities as many disabled people would be calling. This could make the finding of a building rather difficult.


Precise costings of the cost of running the new Authority will not be possible until its workload becomes clear. The current annual salary bill of about £300,000 a year could reach £950,000. Assume £170,000 a year for rent and £30,000 a year for formal training. In addition to say, three, staff being full time on research it would be wise to allocate some £80,000 for commissioned research in a carefully co-ordinated research programme. In 1995 the cost of ongoing expenses other than salaries, rent and training was almost £100,000 e.g. books, newspapers and stationery (£16,985), depreciation (£16,768) and travel and subsistence (£10,144). Assume that these costs will rise roughly in proportion to the rise in staff numbers to give a figure of £300,000 for expenses other than salaries, rent, training and commissioned research. The total annual cost of running the Authority in its first full year of operation on these assumptions is:













Other expenses




Add 4% for inflation in 1996 and 1997






,say £1.7m.

In the first year there would be additional once-off expenses e.g. computer installation, buy-out of lease in Mount Street and a considerable sum not yet quantifiable for enhanced publicity.


Blackwell, J. (1989): Women in the Labour Force, Dublin: Employment Equality Agency

Callan, T. and Wren, A. (1992): Male-Female Wage Differentials in Ireland, Dublin: The Economic and Social Research Institute [Seminar Paper]

Callan, T. and Wren, A. (1994): Male-Female Wage Differentials, Dublin: The Economic and Social Research Institute

Durkan, J. (1995): Women in the Labour Force, Dublin: Employment Equality Agency

Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) (1995): Poverty - Lesbians and Gay Men, Dublin: Combat Poverty Agency

Gunnigle, P., McMahon, G. and Fitzgerald, G. (1995): Industrial Relations in Ireland, Dublin, Gill and Macmillan

Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL): Equality Now, Dublin: ICCL

Leddin, A. and Walsh, B (1995): The Macro-Economy of Ireland, Dublin: Gill and Macmillan

Mac Greil, M. (1980): Prejudice and Tolerance in Ireland, New York: Praeger

Mac Greil, M. (1996, forthcoming): Prejudice in Ireland Revisited, Maynooth: Maynooth Survey and Research Unit.

McMahon, G.V. (1990): Low Pay and a Legal Minimum Wage, Dublin: ICTU

Nolan, B. (1993): Low Pay in Ireland, Dublin: The Economic and Social Research Institute

Robinson, M. (1985): Women, Work and Equality, Dublin: Irish Association for Industrial Relations

Government Publications - published by the Stationery Office, Dublin

1987. Economic Series

1991. Programme for Economic and Social Progress

1993. Report of the Second Commission on the Status of Women

1994. Economic Series

1995. Report of Task Force on the Travelling Community

1996. Growing and Sharing our Employment

1996. Industrial Earnings and Hours Worked [Central Statistics Office Statistical Release]