Change in policy achieved through Sex Discrimination Case

Catherine McCormick worked as a teacher at Assumption Grammar in Ballynahinch since 2007 and continues to work there.  Following her return to her job from maternity leave Catherine took a temporary reduction in hours working three days a week instead of five as part of a flexible working arrangement due to her childcare responsibilities.  However a colleague was appointed as Temporary Head of English and Catherine claimed that she was overlooked for the post because she was working part-time.


Catherine felt it was unfair that she was denied the opportunity to be considered for this temporary promotion.  She understood that taking the post would have meant working full time but she was not given the opportunity.  She believed she was not considered because she was working part-time which amounted to indirect sex discrimination.  Catherine was supported to take her case by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI).


Statistics show how issues such as this may have more of an impact on women:

  • 39% of female employees work part-time compared to 9% of male employees;
  • 82% of part-time employees are women.


Anne McKernan from ECNI said:  “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.”  The case is a good reminder to employers of the difficulties and dangers of disadvantaging people on flexible or part time working arrangements, even unintentionally. 


The case was settled and Catherine was awarded £5,000.  Following the settlement Assumption Grammar recognised that it did not give Catherine an opportunity to apply or be considered for the position and disadvantaged her as a part-time/flexible worker.  The Board of Governors are to work with ECNI on appropriate training in recruitment and selection with a focus on part-time workers. Catherine has been able to achieve a change in policy and practice which will benefit others in the future:  “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.” 


You can read the full story on the ECNI website: