A teacher who was overlooked for a promotion because she was working reduced hours has received a £5,000 pay out after settling with the school.
Catherine McCormick, who still teachers at Assumption Grammar School in Ballynahinch, County Down, said she was not given the opportunity to be considered for a temporary head of English position because she worked three days a week instead of five after returning from maternity leave.
The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, which supported her with her case, said this amounted to indirect sex discrimination.
She said: “The school had been very accommodating of my flexible working arrangements, which I needed because of my child care responsibilities.
“So when a colleague was appointed Temporary Head of English, and I was not considered because I was working part time, I thought it was unfair to be denied the opportunity to be considered for this temporary promotion and the chance to gain that experience. I understand that the demands of the post would mean working full time, but I wasn’t given this option.
“I love my job and am happy at the school, so I’m pleased that a new co-option policy has been put in place which will ensure that opportunities for career enhancement are dealt with on a formal and procedurally correct manner.”
Assumption Grammar School said it recognised that McCormick was not given the opportunity to apply for the position and this had disadvantaged her as a part-time worker. It said it would work with the Equality Commission to put training on recruitment and selection in place, with specific focus on part-time workers.
According to the Equality Commission, 39% of female employees in Northern Ireland work part time, compared with 9% of men. Eighty-two per cent of part-time workers in the country are women.
Anne McKernan, head of legal services at the Equality Commission, said: “While Catherine missed out on this opportunity, she has been able to secure a change in policy and practice that will benefit other teachers into the future. It’s good that this has been resolved productively and amicably.
“We’re publicising this to remind all employers of the difficulties and dangers of disadvantaging people on flexible or part time working arrangements, even unintentionally.
“Because of the high concentration of women in part-time jobs, any measure which excludes part-timers from a particular post or promotion is likely to have a more adverse effect on women and that’s why it may amount to indirect sex discrimination.”