Teacher Settles Sex Discrimination Case For £5k

A schoolteacher at a Northern Ireland grammar school who was overlooked for a promotion due to indirect sex discrimination has settled her case for £5,000.

Catherine McCormick raised the complaint against Assumption Grammar School in Ballynahinch when she was not considered for the position of Temporary Head of English due to her reduced working hours.

The teacher, who still works at the school, was supported by the Equality Commission and her case resulted in a change of policy to benefit other teachers.

Ms McCormick said: "The school had been very accommodating of my flexible working arrangements, which I needed because of my child care responsibilities. I have been teaching at Assumption since 2007. Following my return from maternity leave, I availed of a temporary reduction in hours, working three days per week instead of five.

"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."
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Upon settling, Assumption recognised that it had not given Ms McCormick an opportunity to apply for the position, therefore disadvantaging her as a flexible worker. The Board of Governors stated its regret and confirmed that Ms McCormick will be at no disadvantage for future positions after she was unable to avail of the experience. The Board will also liaise with the Equality Commission on appropriate training in recruitment and selection with specific focus on part-time workers.

Anne McKernan, Head of Legal Services at the Equality Commission, said: "This is a good result all round - one of the main reasons we support cases is to effect change. 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. 

"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 and that's why it may amount to indirect sex discrimination."


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