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Overlooked for promotion because teacher worked part time

A teacher at the Assumption Grammar School in Ballynahinch, County Down has received a payment of £5000 because she was overlooked for promotion.

Catherine McCormick, who still teaches at the school, was paid out after settling with the school. She said that she was not given the opportunity to be considered for the position of temporary head of English because she only worked for three days a week instead of five. Ms McCormick had just returned to teaching after maternity leave.

Supporting her case was the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, who agreed with her claim for indirect sexual discrimination.

McCormick stated that the school had been very helpful with regards to her flexible working arrangements. She needed these due to her child-care responsibilities.

The problem had begun when a colleague was appointed as temporary Head of English. Ms McCormick was not considered for the position because she was working part time, and she thought that it was unfair that she had been denied the opportunity for the temporary position.

Even though it was temporary, the position would have given her the opportunity of gaining further experience. McCormick understood that the position meant working full time, but she was not given the option to apply for it.

Assumption Grammar School commented that they recognised that Ms McCormick was not afforded the opportunity to apply for the position. This had disadvantaged her as a part time worker. The school stated that they intended to work with the Equality Commission in order to provide better training on recruitment and selection. The focus would be based more on part time workers.

The Equality Commission released figures showing that 39% of female employees in Northern Ireland only worked part time. This was compared to 9% of men working part time. 82% of all the part time workers in Northern Ireland are women.

Head of legal services at the Equality Commission, Anne McKernan said that while McCormick had missed out on this opportunity, she had secured a change in policy and practise. This change would benefit other teachers in the future. McKernan also said that it was good that the issue had been settled amicably and productively.

The Equality Commission made the claim public in order to remind employers of the disadvantages and difficulties for people who were working flexible or part time. Even unintentionally problems could arise from this.

The Commission stated that simply because of the high number of women in part time jobs, any situation where part time workers are excluded would affect women adversely and this could easily amount to indirect sex discrimination.

McCormick was awarded £5,000 for indirect sexual discrimination.

McCormick stated that she loves her job and was happy working at the school. She is very pleased that the new co-option policy had been set up and was in place. The new policy would provide career opportunities and enhancement in a formal and procedurally correct manner.

The Board of Governors at the school stated that they regretted the upset and they were looking forward to a good working relationship in the future. They also confirmed that McCormick would not be victimised in any way because of her claim.

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