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Differences in employment law between Great Britain and Northern Ireland


One of the most common mistakes people make is to confuse the terms “Great Britain” and “the United Kingdom (UK)”. The distinction is important not just for geographers, but also for employment lawyers. Great Britain, quite simply, consists of England, Scotland and Wales. The UK includes England, Scotland and Wales, but also includes Northern Ireland (NI). In this section, we outline the differences in employment law between Great Britain and NI, and throughout the term “Britain” is used to denote Great Britain.

Employment law for Britain is determined by the Westminster Government, ie it is not devolved to Scotland or Wales. Employment and discrimination law was devolved to the NI Assembly in 1998, although some legislation such as the Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applies to NI as well as the rest of the UK. Over the years, most of the legislation passed by Westminster was also enacted in NI with the result that most employment rights are, in practice, the same as in Britain (although the legal references are often different due to NI specific legislation). There are, however, some divergences and this section explains what the main differences are.