Irish Workplaces Face New Challenges

New equality infrastructures presents new challenges for Irish workplaces. The role of the Equality Authority and the Employment Equality Act, 1998 have been put in place because of the need to change the way we do our business. The challenge for organisations is to change and to realise the benefits of change. Addressing a conference in Waterford entitled “New Perspectives -Disability and Employment, “Niall Crowley, Chief Executive Officer of the Equality Authority stated “No longer can difference be denied, with those differing from the dominant norm condemned to rehabilitation or marginalisation”. The challenge is to secure “a society that accommodates different requirements and makes provision that is appropriate to different needs.”

Mr. Crowley acknowledged the role of social partnership and the invaluable work of the Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities in formulating ‘policy and the structural changes necessary to achieve a body of economic, social and civil rights for people with disabilities. The objective of an equality agenda is to focus on objectives that embrace access, participation and outcomes in employment and non- employment areas. Equality of outcome refers to achieving overall equality between marginalised and non-marginalised groups in terms of access to and distribution of economic, education, cultural, political and other benefits. In implementing the agenda we acknowledge and affirm difference in Irish society.

The task before the Equality Authority is daunting, but a task that is the responsibility of all in Irish society. It will approach this task within a spirit of partnership with key players, employers and service providers. Two core themes have been identified as expressing the ambitions of the Equality Authority. “Mainstreaming Equality is about contributing to a situation where equality considerations are at the centre of all decision making. Celebrating diversity is about giving a new visibility to those who experience inequality, their aspirations and their agendas for change.” The ability to accommodate diversity has been recognised as a key source of creativity.