Wednesday, 19 February 1997
Dáil Éireann Debate
This code of practice was prepared by the Employment Equality Agency with the full co-operation of IBEC and ICTU. In accordance with an undertaking in the Programme for Competitiveness and Work the code is being promoted, monitored and reviewed on an ongoing basis by the agency. In attempting to ensure the widest possible dissemination of the code, the EEA has distributed almost 33,000 copies to employers, trade unions, individuals and other interested parties since its publication two and a half years ago.
The Employment Equality Bill, 1996, which completed its passage through this House a fortnight ago, makes provision for the approval of codes of practice in the furtherance of the elimination of discrimination and-or the promotion of equality in employment. Codes so approved may be admissible in evidence and taken into account in any proceedings. As I mentioned in this House on a number of previous occasions, I am disposed to having the 1994 code of practice reviewed when the Bill is enacted so that it can be given appropriate statutory recognition.
Dr. McDaid: The Employment Equality Agency has a code of practice on measures to protect the dignity of men and women at work  and the Minister stated that he hoped to put it on a statutory basis. Is he satisfied that the Employment Equality Bill, 1996, gives it a statutory basis?
Mr. Taylor: It does not transform the code into a Statutory Instrument. The Bill makes provision that codes as approved can be designated by me so that they can be used by a court or tribunal. Account of the content of such an approved code can be used as a guideline on proper and best practice in the determination of any case that comes before a court or tribunal where the code is relevant to the individual circumstances of the case before it. Judicial notice would be taken of the code in those circumstances if I approve it under the powers given to the Minister in the Bill. As I said in my reply I am disposed to having the 1994 code of practice reviewed when the Bill is enacted so that it can be given appropriate statutory recognition but I cannot do that until the Bill has completed all Stages and becomes law.
Dr. McDaid: Is it agreed that such a code of practice in the workplace would be to the benefit of employers and employees and that employers would welcome such a code of practice because it would go some way towards exempting them in sexual harassment incidents which occur among their employees in the workplace?
Mr. Taylor: I could not agree more with the Deputy. That was the reason I arranged with the EEA to set about the preparation of this code and they consulted and secured the agreement of IBEC and ICTU for its preparation and launch. It has been published and 33,000 copies of it have been circulated. It is a valuable instrument in the hands of employers and employees. It is my wish to take it further by giving it statutory recognition. That is the reason I put a provision in the Employment Equality Bill, 1996, to enable me to do that.
That position need not be confined to this code. It may be possible to prepare codes dealing with other aspects of equality, such as pay, employment, etc. which could be given a statutory basis and used in tribunals in the same way as this one.
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