Employment law in Belfast


Employment law in Northern Ireland is different to English employment law. Consequently, it is essential to use a local employment law solicitor in Belfast.

Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland. It is home to many businesses which employ nearly half a million people across several different industries which make up the local economy in Belfast. Employment law is crucial in governing these employers, and is manly derived from the UK parliament, though there are some differences between the laws in English cities and the rules relating to Belfast. Employment law seeks to strike a delicate balance between the need to protect individual employees from unfair work conditions and employers’ rights to run their organisation in an economically efficient manner.

In Patefield v Belfast City Council, a recent case which came before the Court of Appeal, these two opposing goals of employment law came together. The case involved a claim for sexual discrimination contrary to the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. The Act does not permit an employer to discriminate on the basis of an employee’s gender. Ms Patefield was an independent contractor working for the council. She was working for two years and announced that she was taking maternity leave.

About halfway into her leave she contacted the council informing them of her future intention to return to work. The council replied that she was not guaranteed a role upon her return because she was not an employee; rather, she was an independent contractor.

At the end of her leave she contacted the council again and was informed that she had been replaced by a permanent employee. This, she claimed, and the Court of Appeal agreed, amounted to sexual discrimination because she was effectively replaced during her maternity leave. The council had the right to replace her with a permanent employee but this should have been done during the time she was working there, and not during her leave.

The above case illustrates the complexity of employment disputes, and the interrelating legal principles. If you are involved in a work related dispute in Belfast, employment law professionals could offer you crucial advice regarding your rights and responsibilities.

If you would like to obtain legal advice on employment matters, Contact Law can put you in touch with a local employment law solicitor free of charge. So, if you have any questions or would like our help in finding local employment law solicitors please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.


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