The Employment Equality Act 1998 prohibits discrimination in the area of employment on nine specified grounds. Membership or non-membership of a trade union is not a discriminatory ground. The Government is committed under Sustaining Progress, the social partnership agreement 2003-05, to completing the review of the discriminatory grounds which was initiated in accordance with section 6(4) of the Employment Equality Act. Additional grounds for discrimination suggested in the review include the grounds of socio-economic status, including social origin or social origin as a separate ground, trade union membership, criminal conviction or ex-prisoner/ex-offender, and political opinion. The Equality Authority has been a participant in the review.
In view of the complexity of the additional grounds proposed, research on international experience and legislation in the area was commissioned and is expected to be published shortly. The research will inform future policy decisions on whether or not it would be appropriate to extend the discriminatory grounds for the purposes of the Employment Equality Act. Pending publication of the research and completion of the review process, it would be inappropriate for me to make further comment at this time.