IPRT believes one of the sustained goals of the Commission should be its continued leadership in ‘making equality and human rights real.’ One approach in achieving this aim is ensuring domestic equality legislation protects the most disadvantaged and that this group are fully benefitting from such legislation.
IPRT proposes that a key priority for IHREC in its Strategy Statement 2019-2021 should be the promotion of equality of individuals through recognising the protected ground of ‘social origin’ and/or ‘socio-economic status’, to be interpreted specifically and explicitly to include those with criminal convictions in domestic legislation, including in the Employment Equality Act 1998 and the Equal Status Act 2000.
Employer discrimination against those with criminal convictions is an ongoing and significant issue of concern in Europe. A 2016 YouGov survey in the UK, found that 50% of employers would not consider employing an ex-offender. Research highlights both the dearth of and need for anti-discrimination statutes (rather than simply expungement legislation) to protect this group in Europe.
A concern to prohibit discrimination on the basis of social origin/socio-economic status is evident in many international legal instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) and the ILO Convention No.111, Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958. IPRT’s submission also outlines precedent for pursuing this approach in other common law jurisdictions.
While Ireland has introduced the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016, there are a number of serious limitations to the current legislation in the employment field, and in any event, its provisions do not extend to the much wider area of equality and non-discrimination in access to all services. In addition, there is currently no broad anti-discrimination provision in this or any other legislation which protects those with criminal convictions. As a result, the ability of those with convictions to achieve his or her potential continues to be limited by prejudice, discrimination and inequality.
Read the IPRT Submission to the Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission Consultation on Strategy Statement 2019-2021 here.