New Equality Structures North and South

A one day cross border conference for employers, educators and policy makers entitled “Tipping the Balance” was held in Portadown today. Issues facing women in the workplace include affordable childcare, access to training, greater flexibility, low pay, promotion and participation in non-traditional fields. The conference highlighted innovative approaches to the difficulties faced by employers and women in or returning to work.

Mr Niall Crowley of the Equality Authority, outlined the new equality infrastructure in the Republic of Ireland. The equality agenda has broadened, as the Equality Authority seeks to eliminate discrimination and promote equality of opportunity on nine distinct grounds:- martial status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, race, disability, age, membership of the Traveller community and gender. There is an onus on us all to change, to accommodate diversity and realise the potential of change. “The integrated agenda affirms the importance of identity, demands a resourcing of identity and allows for the multiplicity of identities.

New equality infrastructure builds on the protection afforded to women. It establishes nine grounds of discrimination, as women make up at least 50% of all groups covered by the legislation, provides a legal code on sexual harassment, a wider focus on positive action and equal pay within employment and prohibits discrimination in non employment areas. Mr. Crowley concluded his address by referring to the strong co-operative relationship with the Equality Commission in Northern Ireland. “We have received generous support from the Equality Commission to date and strong foundations have already been laid for an ongoing relationship of mutual benefit”.