Bacik Delighted to Lead for Labour Senators at Committee Stage of Labour's Equality Bill
Posted on April 08, 2014
STATEMENT BY SENATOR IVANA BACIK
Senator Ivana Bacik will tomorrow Wed 9th April be leading for the Labour Senators group at Committee stage of the Employment Equality (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2013. This Bill was proposed by the Labour Senators group in March 2013 and passed through Second Stage on 13th March 2013 with Government support.
Senator Bacik said today:
"This is an important Bill, and we are delighted to have Government support for it to go through Committee stage. It passed Second Stage with Government approval on 13th March 2013, and provides for an amendment to Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act, so as to ensure that religious-run or controlled schools or hospitals can no longer maintain their general opt-out from anti-discrimination laws.”
“The Bill will provide an important safeguard for LGBT employees, single parents or others who currently face potential discrimination under section 37.”
Senator Ivana Bacik, Labour spokesperson on Justice in the Seanad, is leading for the Labour group in the Seanad when the Bill is taken tomorrow at Committee stage. Senator Mary Moran, Labour spokesperson on Education in the Seanad, will also be speaking on it.
The Bill was drafted by the Labour Senators with support from the Labour PLP, in particular Deputies Ciara Conway, Dominic Hannigan, John Lyons and Aodhan O’Riordain,.
Briefing Note on Bill attached.
THE EMPLOYMENT EQUALITY (AMENDMENT) (NO.2) BILL 2013
Passed Second Stage 13.3.2013 during Private Members’ time of the Labour Senators
Committee Stage due to be taken in the Seanad, Wed 9th April 2014
The key purpose of this Bill is to protect individuals against discrimination in an appropriate and balanced way, whilst respecting religious freedoms.
Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act 1998 (as amended by section 25 of the Equality Act 2004) in subsections (2)-(6) allows for certain exclusions of discrimination on particular grounds in certain employments, to allow differential treatment based on a characteristic related to a discriminatory ground where it constitutes a ‘genuine and determining occupational requirement’ and where the objective of the differential treatment is legitimate and the requirement proportionate.
However, section 37(1) of the 1998 Act currently provides that a specific exclusion of discrimination exists for religious, educational or medical institutions which are under the direction or control of a body established for religious purposes or whose objectives include the provision of services in an environment which promotes certain religious values.
This exclusion means that such institutions are not taken to discriminate if they give more favourable treatment, on the religion ground, to an employee or prospective employee where ‘reasonable to do so in order to maintain the religious ethos of that institution’; or where they take action reasonably necessary to prevent an employee or prospective employee from ‘undermining the religious ethos of the institution.’
This provision in section 37(1) of the 1998 Act has been subject to criticism from many individuals and human rights organisations, as well as the teaching unions. It is taken to confirm the decision of the High Court in Flynn v. Power  IR 648 which upheld the dismissal of a pregnant teacher from her post in a convent school in New Ross, Co. Wexford.
The continued existence of the provision enables religious-run schools and hospitals to discriminate against employees or prospective employees whose sexuality or family status, for example, is not perceived as conforming with the religious ethos of the institution.
The key purpose of this Bill is to change that position.
The amendment of section 37(1) proposed in this Bill would offer protections to staff of religious-run medical and educational institutions who are members of the LGBT community or those who are single parents, for example. At the same time, the Bill would allow these institutions to maintain their religious ethos.
The Bill also provides for additional protections for employees or prospective employees where the religious-run or controlled educational and medical institutions are in receipt of state funding.