Exemptions which apply to one, or more, of the nine grounds

There are some situations in which the Employment Equality Acts 1998 – 2015 (EEA), which deal with discrimination in the workplace, do not apply. These are known as exemptions.

Some exemptions apply to particular kinds of comparison (grounds).

For example, these include exemptions which relate to:

Other laws, for example:

  • anything which is legal under the Maternity Protection Act 1994 and the Adoptive Leave Act 1995 is not discrimination under the civil status ground
  • anything which is legal under the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996 and the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 is not discrimination under the age ground
  • action which is legal under the Employment Permits Act 2003 is not discrimination under the race ground.

Family status

Employers can provide benefits specifically for employees who have families.  For example, they can provide childcare facilities and hold family fun days.  This kind of benefit is known as positive action.

Civil Status

It is not discrimination for an employer to provide benefits specifically by reference to an event occasioning a change in the civil status of an employee.

Gender ground

Employers’ benefits for employees who are pregnant or breast-feeding are not discrimination under the gender ground.

Age ground

Employers can for example:

  • set 18 as a minimum age when recruiting
  • set a retirement age, but it must be objectively and reasonably justified by a legitimate aim, and the means of achieving this aim must be appropriate and necessary
  • offer different occupational benefits (such as illness benefits or severance pay) based on an employee’s age.

Religion ground

Some religious, medical and educational institutions may treat employees more favourably on the religion ground, and may take action to prevent an employee from undermining the institution’s religious ethos.

However, if the institution is in receipt of public funds, any more favourable treatment on the religion ground cannot constitute discrimination on any of the nine grounds, and must correspond to a genuine occupational requirement.

Similarly, any action taken against an employee to prevent the undermining of such an institution’s religious ethos must be objectively justified and the means of achieving this are must be appropriate and necessary.

Disability ground

Employers can pay employees with disabilities less than others if they cannot do the same work in the same amount of time.  However, if changes to the workplace would help a person with a disability to do the job better, the employer has to make the changes.  The EEA calls these changes appropriate measures.

Skills training bodies

Skills training bodies are allowed to ask for different fees, and have different rules in relation to the allocation of places, for people who are nationals of EU member States.  They can also give different treatment when allocating places to mature students (age ground) and in relation to age and nationality when awarding grants and scholarships.  However, the award must be in keeping with the traditions of the institution.

The EEA also includes other kinds of exemption:

Click on the links to find out if they apply to your situation.