How not to inspire public confidence in a QUANGO Lesson No.1053

The Equality Commission fought and lost a claim of sexual discrimination by one of its female employees.

  • wild turkey

    Questions, questions, questions.

    In addition to the compensation award to the tune of £4300 (taxpayers money i assume) what were the total costs incurred by the Commission in defending this case?

    Baristers fees? (Taxpayers monies i assume)
    Solicitors fees? (Taxpayers monies i assume)

    Costed time of internal staff including how testimony (and relevant preparation) by the ECNI’s sole witness, the Chief Executive? (Taxpayers monies I assume)

    Was it necessary for the complainant to take leave days to argue her case to the tribunal?

    Did the ECNI sole witness, the Chief Executive, take leave days to testify to the tribunal or was this part and parcel of her job?

    Is this case a one off deviation from the ECNI ‘effective policies’ or have other complaints against ECNI been lodged with the tribunal?

    It would appear from previous ECNI annual reports that in past years in excess of £100,000 has been allocated to rigourosly defend ECNI against complaints of discrimination.

    the above questions merely sketch the micro picture, the tip of the iceberg so to speak.

    Anyone familiar with the workings of FoI?


  • Rapunsel

    Hold on here, the main issue surely is that

    1. Noone is above the law, not even those charged with enforcing it

    2. The equality legislation is working and can and will be applied to support individuals who have been discriminated against.

    3. Discrimination exists everywhere even within organisations with robust systems and procedures

    4. Most organisations will act as they see it to to protect the organsiation and staff who have been responsible for por decisions especially if they are in senior positions.

    5. The cost of this one case must be set against positive outcomes for the many individuals who have successfully fought discrimination cases with Equality Commission backing

    6. My main concern is the culture we live seems to be one where people seem more interested in status and hierarchy in the workplace as opposed to the worthwhileness of the work they are engaged in

  • wild turkey


    allow me to address your points

    1. Agreed. no one is above the law. That is the point. Try making it to those charged with enforcing the law. They are charged with a higher responsibility.

    2. the equality legislation is NOT working. the evidence base for this assertion is wide, diverse, be it in individual cases or the application of equality considerations by public bodies as mandated under section 75 of the Northern Ireland (1998) Act. If you require specific discrete examples, feel free to contact me.

    3. You cannot legislate for the behaviour of individuals. However, when it comes to discrimination, the efficacy of systems must be measured on both preventive, (ie how can we stop this happening) and therapeutic (a disease ( dis ease ?) exists, how do we deal with it?).

    4. agreed. it is a combination of the peter principle and the lack of clear accountability in the public sector. senior management will cover their ass. and why not, eh?

    5. how much has the ECNI spent since oct 1 1999 in defense of allegaions of discrinatiion? £10, £100, £1000, 100000? or should we go on with the zeroes?

    with respect to positive outcomes, please specify and in doing so i would welcome your assessment (evidence based no doubt) as to whether the vigourous pursuit of individual discrimination cases has been enhanced or impeded since the inception of the equality commission. in addressing this point, i would be particularly interesting on your insights as to the impact of the commissions ‘financial’ crises of previous years

    6. i agree with, and endorse your MAIN concern regarding status and hierarchy. not being offay with uk libel and slander laws i hesitate to respond to your comment regarding the

    ‘worthwhileness of the work they are engaged in’

    however, a speculation? it is this.

    if people farther down the food chain had £”£”$ up in a fashion similar to that of the ECNI chief exeuctive and senior management, the P45s would have been flying.

    the tao says

    fraudulence runs in the blood

    Rapunzel? The fairy tale resonates. does this story?


  • IJP

    Both good posts above.

    This raises all kinds of very serious issues: Can we trust the Equality Commission to get things right? Is the Equality Commission in a position to get things right? And is Section 75 really as effective as it should be.

    As far as I can see ‘the most advanced equality legislation in the world’ has delivered some gains no doubt – but has it helped foster a culture of broad and instinctive tolerance in the work place? Indeed, is it possible that this legislation impedes legitimate practices, for example in political debate?

    It’s a debate worth having. I wonder whether our politicians are willing to have it…

  • wild turkey


    ‘Can we trust the Equality Commission to get things right? ‘
    That is the $64,000 question. For example, it is my understanding that in its written decision finding against ECNI, the tribunal expressed a degree of ‘skepticism’ regarding the testimony of the ECNI Chief Executive. On the assumption that this testimony was given under oath,does the tribunal’s skepticism give rise to legitimate and serious concerns around trust and veracity?

    ‘Is the Equality Commission in a position to get things right? ‘

    Who funds it? Externally and internally, who pulls the levers of influence? Who has, and has had, their hands on the tiller?

    ‘And is Section 75 really as effective as it should be?’
    Pardon my ignorance here, but can someone point to major policies that have been adjusted and/or modified as a result of equality considerations, analysis and/or consultation under section 75? Funding decisions in the education and health sectors perhaps? Rates? water charges? PFI and other procurement concerns?

    The assessment of section 75 depends on your definition of effectiveness and on whose behalf section 75 is ultimately given effect.

    In any event, the commission is currently conducting reviews on the effectiveness of section75.

    let us now hold our breath.

  • bertie

    We can never assume that we can trust equality with the equality commission or disability issues with disability organisations, etc. when they do get it wrong the effects on those they wrong can be even more devastating because there is often so little redress.

    I don’t know the details of this case but if the Commission has dicriminated against anyone then it is fantastic and the most wonderful news that someone has taken them on and won.

  • wild turkey


    click on fought and lost above. you’ll access the utv article on this particular case. alternatively the full detailed decision can be obtained from the office of industrial tribunal, waring st belfast.

    with respect to disability and ECNI, at its inception the ECNI has a dedicated and fairly well staffed; ie lawyers, information advisers, policy analysts, devoted specifically and exclusively to disability issues. it is my understanding that this is no longer the case.

    should i infer from your comment that have, or should have, taken on the equality commission?

  • fair_deal


    “I wonder whether our politicians are willing to have it…”

    The Single Equality Bill will make them have this debate as will the Bill of Rights.

    I personally favour the NIHRC and ECNI boards have the same structure as the Policing Board.

    wild turkey

    “the commission is currently conducting reviews on the effectiveness of section75.”

    A public body reviews its legislative basis. Anyone want to give me odds on them recommending that they really need lots more power and resources?

    “but can someone point to major policies that have been adjusted and/or modified as a result of equality considerations, analysis and/or consultation under section 75?”

    In fact the reverse even though some Impact Assessment has said it would have a discriminatory impact government just shrugged and decided to do it anyway.

  • wild turkey

    fair deal

    the review should address the strengths and weakness of section 75 and associated schedule 9 (?) of the NI Act.

    a simple rule of economics?
    consumers maximize utility
    firms maximize profits
    politicians maximize votes
    quangos maximize budgets

    on that basis and although i am far from risk adverse, unless the odds are somewhere along the lines of a mystic longshot, i decline your offer of a bet

  • bertie

    Wild Turkey

    No I haven’t taken on the EC but I am totally disillusioned with the Disability Rights Commission and it’s just a generic concern, about assuming that bodies that are charged with promoting equality will treat their own staff fairly or will not itself be part of the problem for thier client group (sorry for the double negatives but I’m too tired to unravell them.

  • Animus

    I know of a number of cases which have been fought on Sec 75 grounds, particularly in relation to PPPs which have led a policy change. In both cases which come to mind, part time female workers were found to have an adverse impact if the policy were to go forward and changes were made to ensure that the same terms and conditions would exist if the PPP went forward as a whole. There are numerous examples. One problem the Commission does have is making the public aware, but then policy is boring to most people.

    Re: Water charges, etc, Departments have claimed time and again that these are too high level to be impact assessed, which makes a mockery of the legislation. The Commission does not have sufficent teeth to go after Departments which don’t play ball as there are no sanctions for non-compliance.

  • wild turkey


    u cite 2 PPPs that were adjusted due to s75 to take account of p-t female workers. did these changes arise due to the equia process?

    however, i am confused as you then go on to state that ‘there are numerous examples’

    numerous examples of what?
    if there are numerous examples, why cite only 2 specific examples.

    in terms of raising public awareness of s75 and in particular and awareness and competence in taking complaints under s75 the problem is the commissions responsibilty.

    question, since the practical roll-out of s75 in 2000 how many training sessions on making s75 complaints has the commission held for groups representative of the 9 s75 categories?

    ecni annual reports indicate that in some years the commission allocated in excess of £100k to defend itself against allegations of discrimination. in comparable years, what was commission expenditure on s75 awareness raising and specifically training on s75 complaints?

    to govern and administer, is allocate finite resources against a plethora of competing demands. on the evidence to hand it is may not be possible where the commissions lack of impact on s75 amounts to maladministration. but it is a question that merits examination.

    policy boring? there appears to widespread awareness of and resistance to water charges. within its remit, what has the Commission done to galvanize or channel that resistance.

    on the issue eqias on high-level policies, if departments can neglect eqias with impunity, its not a question of playing ball, but it may be question of balls.

    or lack thereof in ensuring compliance with equality schemes.

  • Animus

    Wild Turkey – yes, the 2 examples I stated were specific changes brought about by the eqia process.

    Why did I state only 2? Because I was at home, drinking a beer when I saw your post, and I felt that those examples proved my point, without writing a long, tedious post.

    I certainly agree that the Equality Commission has a number of problems and I have been aware that staff morale in some areas is very low.

    Water charges interest people because they know it will cost them money, but most people aren’t engaged with the full debate – can’t pay, won’t pay is not really a well-reasoned argument. If everyone was in favour of hanging, should we bring it back by majority vote? I hope not.

    The NIO recently lost a case on ASBOs because they didn’t follow their equality scheme. The full ramifications of that decision will be interesting to watch unfold.

    Your point about awareness raising by the Commission itself is well taken. They do have regular sessions with members of the Equality Coalition, which serves as a “critical friend”. I don’t know how many sessions the EC has held on making complaints, and their procedures are not always brilliant, but the doors of communication are certainly open.

  • wild turkey


    yeah fair enough, the point on water charges was not particularly well argued. the point i was trying to make is how to channel/enhance an awareness of s75 implications on those govt policies which animate widespread public concern. I dont have the definitive answer to that but providing training/awareness raising whatever to interested groups, especially political parties, might be a good starting point. For example, have Equality Coalition members, groups or individuals, received on the complex procedures for bring s75 complaints under schedule 9? I don’t know.

    On ASBOs, yeah the key players delivered the just finding, but then again the NIO on that one was, allegedly allegedly, flipping 2 fingers at s75.

    BTW on hanging, as on many issues, I certainly dont advocate the tyranny of the majority.

    enjoy your beer. wild turkey 101 (available at a few select quality off-sales thru-out NI) makes an excellent chaser.

    i’m off to read some jung