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NWCI and Community Law and Mediation launch free Employment Law Clinics for Women

Published: Wednesday, October 09, 2019

The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) in partnership with Community Law & Mediation (CLM) are launching a new project addressing workplace discrimination including a free employment law advice clinic for women which will run for 12 months.

The new clinic, funded by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), will take place on a monthly basis. It will cater for women experiencing problems at work, such as unequal pay, discrimination or sexual harassment. The issues raised at the clinics will feed in to the development of a Charter for Working Women which will be used as an advocacy and lobbying tool to strengthen safeguards for working women and to challenge discrimination in the workplace.

Orla O’Connor, Director of NWCI said,
“We have witnessed significant progression since women have entered the workforce, yet we know that bias, discrimination and harassment are still live issues for many. Women are still more likely to earn less than men, to be victims of sexual harassment, and to be penalised for having children. The sectors where women workers predominate, such as the personal, community and social services sectors have experienced the most aggressive casualisation of terms and conditions over the last decade. While a framework of laws govern employment in Ireland, the reality is that women struggle to take discrimination cases against their employers."

Rose Wall, CEO, CLM said:
“We are delighted to be collaborating with the NWCI to roll out this much needed free legal advice clinic. CLM frequently represents and advocates for women who are experiencing difficulties at work, such as unequal pay, discrimination or sexual harassment and we know that the lack of legal aid for employment and equality cases before the Workplace Relations Commission is a major barrier to enforcing women’s employment rights. We look forward to working with the NWCI to address these issues and we would like to thank IHREC for their support in delivering this project.”

Denise Roche, Legal and Policy Officer of NWCI said:
“This is an area of law that offers no support from legal aid. So that when a woman makes the difficult decision of taking a legal case against her employer she may find that she has to do this alone. This clinic and the evidence it collects will contribute to legal, policy and organisational responses to effectively meet the needs of women."

The first advice clinic will take place on 31st October at the NWCI Office, 100 North King Street, Smithfield, Dublin 7. Appointments can be made by contacting Denise Roche, deniser@nwci.ie 

More information on Advice Clinics 


For more information, please contact Silke Paasche, Head of Communications at NWCI, 085 858 9104, silkep@nwci.ie

Notes to the Editor:

NWCI has secured funding from IHREC for a 12 month project to foster Workplace Equality, Economic Security and Decent Work for All Women. The project aims to generate an understanding of the issues that women are facing in work and the barriers they face in asserting their legal rights. A central part of the project will be the establishment of Free Employment Legal Advice Clinics for Women.
The only major study of pregnancy and discrimination in the workplace in Ireland was undertaken by the ESRI and published in 2011. It interviewed 2,300 women whose youngest child was born between July 2007 and June 2009. The study had a number of findings but of particular relevance to this project is that a significant minority of women in employment during pregnancy experienced problems: Up to 30 per cent of women reported unfair treatment during pregnancy. At its most extreme, unfair treatment involved dismissal; this was reported by 5 per cent of women employed during pregnancy. Other forms of unfavourable treatment included loss of salary or bonus or denial of promotion (10 per cent); being given unsuitable work or workloads (12 per cent ); receiving unpleasant comments from managers/co-workers (8 per cent); and being discouraged from attending antenatal appointments during work time (8 per cent). 72 per cent of women who experienced unfair treatment during pregnancy took no action. Where action was taken, the most common form was reporting the problem to a manager/supervisor (19 per cent).
The Matrix Workplace Equality Survey was conducted online in October 2018 among 1,019 people (60% female, 40% male) working across a broad range of industries and sectors in Ireland. One in five women reported having been sexually harassed while at work.