Teacher settles ‘indirect sex discrimination’ case over promotion

Co Down school found to have overlooked part-time teacher for promotion

 Catherine McCormick settled her  case against Assumption Grammar school in Ballynahinch. Photograph:  Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press/PA

Catherine McCormick settled her case against Assumption Grammar school in Ballynahinch. Photograph: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press/PA

 

A schoolteacher at one of Co Down’s best-known schools was overlooked for a temporary promotion because she worked reduced hours, the Equality Commission has said.

Catherine McCormick settled her indirect sex discrimination case against Assumption Grammar school in Ballynahinch for £5,000 (€5,537).

She worked three days out of five following her return from maternity leave.

“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.”

The school had been very accommodating of her flexible working arrangements, which she needed because of childcare responsibilities.

She has been teaching at Assumption since 2007.

The teacher added: “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.”

In settling, Assumption recognised that it did not give Ms McCormick an opportunity to apply for the position and disadvantaged her as a part-time/flexible worker.

Upset

The commission said the board regretted the upset felt by Ms McCormick and looked forward to continued good working relationships. It said it 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 will 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 commission, said: “This is a good result all round – one of the main reasons we support cases is to effect change.”

In Northern Ireland, 39 per cent of female employees work part-time compared to 9 per cent of male employees, and 82 per cent 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, Ms McKernan added. - PA