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Factsheet:

Employment law: key differences between Northern Ireland and Great Britain

Resource summary

This factsheet for CIPD members was last updated in April 2016

Introduction

For many years, Government policy in Northern Ireland was that employment law should be broadly in line with the law in Great Britain and the only main distinction was discrimination on grounds of religious belief and political opinion. Most of the legislation passed in Great Britain was enacted in Northern Ireland, but at times there could be a delay, sometimes stretching to years before the implementation of legislation into Northern Ireland. For example, the Race Relations (Northern Ireland) Order was passed in 1997, whereas the Race Relations Act 1976 was passed in Great Britain in 1976. Some legislation such as the Data Protection Act 1998 apply to Northern Ireland as well as the rest of the UK, while other legislation such as the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 have been repealed in the UK, but still remain in force in Northern Ireland.

In practical terms most employees’ entitlements and obligations will be the same in Northern Ireland as in Great Britain. However, although the general employment rights will often be the same, the particular legal references may be different due to Northern Ireland specific legislation. For example, a reference in a contract of employment should be to the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 and not to the Employment Rights Act 1996. Particular care needs to be taken with compromise agreements because a failure to make reference to the appropriate legislation may affect the validity of the agreement. More information on compromise agreements can be found in this factsheet.

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  • Key areas of difference
  • Other employment law areas
  • Employment Law Review
  • Comparison of principal Northern Ireland and Great Britain employment law
  • Codes of practice
  • Useful contacts
  • References
  • Further reading 

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