Belfast Telegraph

Part-time teacher who missed out on temporary promotion at Assumption settles for £5k

Denied opportunity: Catherine McCormick
Denied opportunity: Catherine McCormick
Assumption Grammar in Ballynahinch
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

A teacher at a top Co Down school has been awarded £5,000 after being overlooked for a temporary promotion because she worked reduced hours.

Catherine McCormick settled her indirect sex discrimination case against Assumption Grammar School in Ballynahinch where she worked three days out of five upon returning 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."

Ms McCormick said the school where she has been teaching since 2007 has been "very accommodating" of her flexible working arrangements required as a result of childcare responsibilities.

The Equality Commission for NI said by settling the case, Assumption Grammar School has recognised that it did not give Ms McCormick an opportunity to apply or be considered for the position - she was therefore disadvantaged as a part-time/flexible worker.

The Board of Governors has expressed regret over the upset felt by Ms McCormick and said they look forward to continuing a good working relationship with her.

They have provided assurances that she will not be disadvantaged as a result of losing out on the experience of acting up nor will she be victimised in any way.

The Board has also committed to liaising 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, welcomed the result.

"This is a good result all round," she said. "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."

Ms McKernan said the case should serve as a reminder to employers of the need to treat staff fairly.

"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," she said.

The legal expert pointed out that 39% of female employees work part-time in NI compared to 9% of male workers.

Women make up 82% of part-time employees here.

"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," Ms McKernan explained.

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

Ms McCormick, who will continue teaching at the grammar school, also welcomed the outcome which she believes has led to positive change.

"I love my job and am happy at the school," she said.

"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 in a formal and procedurally correct manner."

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