Northern Ireland

Sex discrimination: Teacher settles case for £5,000

Catherine McCormick Image copyright Equality Commission
Image caption Catherine McCormick continues to work at Assumption Grammar School in Ballynahinch

A County Down teacher has settled her sex discrimination case against Assumption Grammar School in Ballynahinch for £5,000.

Catherine McCormick claimed she was overlooked for a post at the school because she was working reduced hours.

The Equality Commission, which supported her case, said it was resolved productively and amicably.

The school said it regretted the upset caused and looked forward to a good working relationship with her.

'Childcare responsibilities'

Ms McCormick has taught at the school since 2007 and continues to work there.

She said that the school had been "very accommodating" with her flexible working arrangements.

They were put in place for her childcare responsibilities. 

When she came back from maternity leave, she took a temporary reduction in hours, working three days per week instead of five.

"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," she said.

"I understand that the demands of the post would mean working full-time, but I wasn't given this option."

She added that she was happy at the school and pleased that a new co-option policy had been put in place to ensure that "opportunities for career enhancement are dealt with on a formal and procedurally correct manner".

'A good result'

Assumption Grammar School confirmed that there will be "no disadvantage to her due to the fact that she was unable to avail of the acting up experience, nor will she be victimised in any way".

The board of governors will liaise with the Equality Commission on appropriate training in recruitment and selection, with specific focus on part-time workers.

Anne McKernan from the Equality Commission (EC) described the decision as "a good result all round".

"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," she said.

She added that the EC wanted to remind all employers of the "difficulties and dangers of disadvantaging people on flexible or part-time working arrangements, even unintentionally".

According to the EC, in Northern Ireland, 39% of female employees work part-time compared to 9% of male employees and 82% of part-time employees are women.

"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.

"That's why it may amount to indirect sex discrimination," said Ms McKernan.