Croke Park ’could push women out of public service’

Equality audit says measures would affect women disportionately, deepen inequality

File image of Niall Crowley, former CEO of the Equality Authority. Photograph: Bryan O'Brien/The Irish Times

File image of Niall Crowley, former CEO of the Equality Authority. Photograph: Bryan O'Brien/The Irish Times

Tue, Apr 9, 2013, 13:26

Measures set out in the proposed new Croke Park agreement could force women out of employment in the public service, the former head of the Equality Authority has suggested

In an audit of the new Croke Park proposals, Niall Crowley said the measures discriminated on gender grounds.

He said the proposals would disproportionally disadvantage women in the public service and would deepen gender inequality.

The equality audit was commissioned by trade unions opposed to the proposed new Croke Park II agreement.

The equality audit focused on proposals in the Croke Park document relating to additional working hours, work-sharing, flexi-time working and redeployment. It did not deal with the issue of pay.

Mr Crowley said the Croke Park proposals could lead to reduced access to and/or diminished conditions for flexitime and work-sharing, increased working hours without providing for flexibility in their application and the introduction of possible change in the approach to redeployment.

He said it was telling there was no reference to the need to take account of family circumsances and no right of appeal as there was in the first Croke Park deal.

He said the proposals had the potential to have a disproportionate and negative impact on women employed in the public service.

“This is because women shoulder the bulk of caring responsibilities in the home, whether of children or friends or family members with long-term illness, health problems or a disability.”

“Women are far more likely than men to take up flexible working arrangements to reconcile work and family life. Work-life conflict and time poverty will increase for these women and the proposals could serve as a push factor for them to leave the workplace.”

Mr Crowley also said the Croke Park agreement proposals also discriminated on family status grounds as they would “disproportionally disadvantage women and men in the public service who have caring responsibilities”.

He said it would be a matter for the Equality Tribunal, the Labour Court or the courts and even the European Commission to determine the legality or otherwise of this discrimination.

“In doing so they will have to keep in mind the European Court of Justice finding that discrimination can arise not only through the application of different rules to comparable situations, but by the application of the same rule to different situations. The data that has been gathered in this audit suggests that the latter is happening; the same rules are being applied to different situations.”

Mr Crowley said mitigation that needed to happen included that the Croke Park proposals would state that the deployment of additional hours would allow for the work-life balance requirements of staff with caring responsibilities, that the work-sharing or flexitime changes should be removed or that it should be clearly stated that access to and conditions for such arrangements would not be dimished for employees with caring responsibilities and that the wording in relation to re-deployment should be revised to match that in the first Croke Park deal.