Equality Office


DCU Equality Office


What does equal opportunity mean?

Equal Opportunity is the right of all persons to enter, study and advance in the University's academic programmes on the basis of merit, ability, and potential, without regard to age, gender, disability, race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, or status as a member of the Traveller community. Equal Employment Opportunity is the right of all persons to work and to advance on the basis of merit, ability and potential without regard to age, gender, disability, race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, or status as a member of the Traveller community. (DCU Equality and Access Policy, 2000)

What is positive action?

Positive Action means that an employer can do more than ensure employment neutrality. The phrase implies that employers can make additional efforts to recruit, employ, and promote qualified members of groups formerly limited or excluded. DCU recognizes that, where imbalances exist, a policy of positive action is necessary to actively promote equality (as envisaged by the Employment Equality Acts, 1998 and 2004) and is committed to undertaking such a programme. The legislation allows the university to take steps with a view to ensuring full equality in practice between employees on all of the 9 grounds covered by the acts.

What is the legal basis of equal opportunity?

The legislation which governs equality in Ireland is: the Employment Equality Acts, 1998 and 2004 and the Equal Status Acts, 2000 to 2004.

The Acts promote equality of opportunity and prohibit discrimination in relation to a number of areas, including employment, education, vocational training, the provision of goods and services.

The Acts prohibit direct and indirect discrimination on 9 grounds:

  1. The Gender ground, includes men and women and transgender
  2. The Marital Status ground, includes single, married, separated, divorced or widowed
  3. The Family Status ground, includes responsibility as a parent, or in loco parentis in relation to a person who is under eighteen years of age, or as a parent or primary resident carer of a person over eighteen years with a disability who needs care or support on a continuing, regular or frequent basis
  4. The Sexual Orientation ground, includes heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual orientation
  5. The Religious Belief ground, includes religious background, outlook or none
  6. The Age ground, applies to all ages above the maximum age at which a person is statutorily obliged to attend school
  7. The Race ground, includes race, colour, nationality, or ethnic or national origins
  8. The Disability ground includes:
    • The total or partial absence of a person's bodily or mental functions, including the absence of a part of the body
    • The presence of organisms causing, or likely to cause, chronic illness or disease
    • The malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of a person's body
    • A condition or malfunction that results in a person learning differently from a person without a condition or malfunction
    • A condition, or illness or disease, which affects a person's thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgment or which results in disturbed behaviour
    • A disability which exists at present, or which previously existed, or which may exist in the future, or which is imputed (attributed) to a person
  9. The Traveller community ground, which is defined as "people who are commonly called Travellers and who are identified (both by themselves and others) as people with a shared history, culture and traditions, including historically, a nomadic way of life on the island of Ireland".

What constitutes discrimination?

Discrimination in law is defined as the treatment of a person in a less favourable way than another person is, has been, or would be treated in a comparable situation on any of the 9 grounds in the Acts.

There are different types of discrimination covered by the equality legislation.


To establish direct discrimination, a direct comparison must be made. For example, in the case of:

Discrimination on the ground of Gender - the comparison must be between a man and a woman

Discrimination on the ground of Sexual Orientation - the comparison must be between a person of a particular sexual orientation, and one who has a different sexual orientation

Discrimination on the ground of Disability - the comparison must be between a person who has a disability and another who has not, or between persons with different disabilities.


This is discrimination in effect or by impact.

Indirect discrimination occurs when practices or policies that do not appear to discriminate against one group more than another, actually have a discriminatory impact.

It can also happen where a requirement, which may appear non-discriminatory, adversely affects a particular group or class of persons.


This discrimination occurs where a person associated with another person (belonging to any of the 9 grounds in the acts) is treated less favourably because of that association.

What is harassment and sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment and harassment is prohibited by law.

Harassment is any form of unwanted conduct related to any of the (9) discriminatory grounds under the equaltiy legislation.

Sexual harassment is any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

In both cases it is the conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person.

In both cases the unwanted conduct may include acts, requests, spoken words, gestures, or the production, display or circulation of written words, pictures or other material.

The The DCU Policy to Promote Respect and to Protect Dignity (2003) recognises the right of staff, students, visitors and others (the university community) to work and study in an enviroment free from sexual harassment, harassment and bullying and an individual who experiences sexual harassment, harassment or bullying in the course of his or her work or study will have the support of the university in putting a stop to the behaviour.

What is victimisation?

It is unlawful for an employer to penalise an employee for taking action around the enforcement of the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2004 and the Equal Status Acts 2000-2004.

Victimisation occurs where adverse treatment (including dismissal) of an employee is a reaction to:

  1. A complaint of discrimination made by the employee to the employer
  2. Any proceedings by a complainant
  3. An employee having represented or otherwise supported a complainant
  4. The work of an employee having been compared with that of another employee for any of the purposes of the equality acts
  5. An employee having been witness in any proceedings under the equality acts
  6. An employee having opposed by lawful means an act which is unlawful under the equality acts
  7. An employee having given notice or an intention to take action under the equality acts

Who is responsible for the implementation of equality policies and procedures at dcu?

The President has ultimate executive responsibility for the effective development and implementation of equality and access policies

The Equality Director has overall delegated responsibility for coordinating the day-to-day operation of the policies and the development, maintenance, and monitoring of supporting procedures

Heads of Schools and Units are responsible for pursuing the implementation of these policies in relation to the activities of their department

All individual staff, students, visitors and others associated with the University have a shared responsibility to ensure that their actions comply with both the requirements and the spirit of the policies

How is the operation of equality policies coordinated?

The Equality Director monitors the implementation of equality policies and supporting procedures. The Equality Director reports directly to the President on the status of implementation of equality policy and plans and coordinates equal opportunity and related equality activities with senior University officers. The Equality Director is supported and advised by the Equality Steering Group.