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Know Your Rights

Legislation - Employment Equality Acts

The Employment Equality Acts 1998–2015 outlaws discrimination in a wide range of employment and employment-related areas. These include recruitment and promotion; equal pay; working conditions; training or experience; dismissal and harassment including sexual harassment. The legislation defines discrimination as treating one person in a less favourable way than another person based on 9 grounds, one of which is disability.

In relation to Disability the act states: Disability includes people with physical, intellectual, learning, cognitive or emotional disabilities and a range of medical conditions.

Discrimination is defined as less favourable treatment. An employee is said to be discriminated against if they are treated less favourably than another is, has been or would be treated in a comparable situation on any of the above 9 grounds. To establish direct discrimination, a direct comparison must be made, for example, in the case of disability discrimination the comparison must be between a person who has a disability and another who has not, or between persons with different disabilities.

Indirect discrimination occurs when practices or policies that do not appear to discriminate against one group more than another have a discriminatory impact. It can also happen where a requirement that may appear non-discriminatory adversely affects a particular group or class of persons.

Aspects of employment which are covered under the Employment Equality Acts include

  • Advertising
  • Equal Pay
  • Access to employment
  • Vocational training and work experience
  • Terms and conditions of employment
  • Promotion or re-grading
  • Classification of posts
  • Dismissal
  • Collective agreements

Disability Act 2005

The Disability Act 2005 is a law that was passed on 8 July 2005. It says that Government departments and public bodies must work to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities and required public bodies to take positive actions to employ people with disabilities.

Under the Act, people with disabilities are entitled to:

  • Have their health and educational needs assessed.
  • Have individual service statements drawn up, setting out what services they should get.
  • Access independent complaints and appeals procedures.
  • Access public buildings and public service employment.

There is also an obligation placed on all public bodies to promote and support the employment of people with disabilities (with the exception of the Garda, Defence Forces or Prison Officers). Currently public bodies must ensure that at least 3% of their workforce are people with disabilities and under the Comprehensive Employment Strategy the government has agreed to increase this to 6% by 2024. Furthermore, the level of compliance with these targets must be monitored.

For more information see:

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities came into force in Ireland on 19 April 2018.

The purpose of the present Convention is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.

Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

The Convention includes Article 27 on Work and Employment. States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to work on an equal basis with others; this includes the right to the opportunity to gain a living by work freely chosen or accepted in a labour market and work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities. States Parties shall safeguard and promote the realization of the right to work, including for those who acquire a disability during the course of employment, by taking appropriate steps, including through legislation, to:

  • (a) Prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability with regard to all matters concerning all forms of employment, including conditions of recruitment, hiring and employment, continuance of employment, career advancement and safe and healthy working conditions.
  • (b) Protect the rights of persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others, to just and favourable conditions of work, including equal opportunities and equal remuneration for work of equal value, safe and healthy working conditions, including protection from harassment, and the redress of grievances.
  • (c) Ensure that persons with disabilities are able to exercise their labour and trade union rights on an equal basis with others.
  • (d) Enable persons with disabilities to have effective access to general technical and vocational guidance programmes, placement services and vocational and continuing training.
  • (e) Promote employment opportunities and career advancement for persons with disabilities in the labour market, as well as assistance in finding, obtaining, maintaining, and returning to employment.
  • (f) Promote opportunities for self-employment, entrepreneurship, the development of cooperatives and starting one's own business.
  • (g) Employ persons with disabilities in the public sector.
  • (h) Promote the employment of persons with disabilities in the private sector through appropriate policies and measures, which may include affirmative action programmes, incentives and other measures.
  • (i) Ensure that reasonable accommodation is provided to persons with disabilities in the workplace.
  • (j) Promote the acquisition by persons with disabilities of work experience in the open labour market
  • (k) Promote vocational and professional rehabilitation, job retention and return-to-work programmes for persons with disabilities.

The Convention includes Article 24 on Education.

  1. States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to education. With a view to realizing this right without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunity, States Parties shall ensure an inclusive education system at all levels and life long learning directed to:
    • (a) The full development of human potential and sense of dignity and self-worth, and the strengthening of respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and human diversity.
    • (b) The development by persons with disabilities of their personality, talents and creativity, as well as their mental and physical abilities, to their fullest potential.
    • (c) Enabling persons with disabilities to participate effectively in a free society.
  2. In realizing this right, States Parties shall ensure that:
    • (a) Persons with disabilities are not excluded from the general education system on the basis of disability, and that children with disabilities are not excluded from free and compulsory primary education, or from secondary education, on the basis of disability.;
    • (b) Persons with disabilities can access an inclusive, quality and free primary education and secondary education on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live.
    • (c) Reasonable accommodation of the individual's requirements is provided.;
    • (d) Persons with disabilities receive the support required, within the general education system, to facilitate their effective education.
    • (e) Effective individualized support measures are provided in environments that maximize academic and social development, consistent with the goal of full inclusion.
  3. States Parties shall enable persons with disabilities to learn life and social development skills to facilitate their full and equal participation in education and as members of the community. To this end, States Parties shall take appropriate measures, including:
    • (a) Facilitating the learning of Braille, alternative script, augmentative and alternative modes, means and formats of communication and orientation and mobility skills, and facilitating peer support and mentoring.
    • (b) Facilitating the learning of sign language and the promotion of the linguistic identity of the deaf community.
    • (c) Ensuring that the education of persons, and in particular children, who are blind, deaf or deafblind, is delivered in the most appropriate languages and modes and means of communication for the individual, and in environments which maximize academic and social development.
  4. In order to help ensure the realization of this right, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to employ teachers, including teachers with disabilities, who are qualified in sign language and/or Braille, and to train professionals and staff who work at all levels of education. Such training shall incorporate disability awareness and the use of appropriate augmentative and alternative modes, means and formats of communication, educational techniques and materials to support persons with disabilities.
  5. States Parties shall ensure that persons with disabilities are able to access general tertiary education, vocational training, adult education, and lifelong learning without discrimination and on an equal basis with others. To this end, States Parties shall ensure that reasonable accommodation is provided to persons with disabilities.

Health and Safety

Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 employers must ensure the safety, health and welfare of all employees in their workplace.

Special mention is made of employees with disabilities. Employers must take their needs into account. Some specific adjustments include doors, passageways, staircases, showers, washbasins, lavatories, and workstations.

The Irish Sign Language Act

The Irish Sign Language Act, 2017 was signed into law on 24th December 2017.

The Act recognises Irish Sign Language (ISL) as a native language of the State and provides that the ‘community of persons using Irish Sign Language shall have the right to use, develop and preserve Irish Sign Language’.

The Act sets out requirements and obligations on public bodies for the provision of ISL services. The Act places a corresponding duty on all public bodies to provide ISL speakers with free interpretation when availing of or seeking to access statutory entitlements and services. In addition, the Act provides for specific duties and obligations in the areas of legal proceedings, educational provision and broadcasting.

Further information about the Irish Sign Language Act

Legal Supports

If you require advice or support with a legal matter as a Towards Work Participant, please find a list of free resources below. In Ireland, equality laws protect individuals from certain kinds of discrimination or harassment on the following nine grounds:

  • Age
  • Civil Status
  • Disability (including physical, intellectual, learning, cognitive, emotional or medical conditions)
  • Family Status
  • Gender
  • Housing Assistance Payment
  • Membership of the Traveller Community
  • Race (colour, nationality or ethnic or national origins)
  • Religion
  • Sexual Orientation

For more information, please visit the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission or download the files below.
IHREC Guidelines on Applications for Legal Assistance
IHREC Legal Assistance Application Form

Free Legal Advice Centre

FLAC is a human rights organisation which exists to promote equal access to justice for all. FLAC offers some basic legal assistance for free and in confidence, as well as campaigning on some priority areas of law. Visit their website for details or assistance.

Community Law and Mediation

Community Law & Mediation is an independent community law centre providing free legal advice, advocacy, mediation and education services. Visit

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