Part-time Workers Should Not be Excluded from Promotion Opportunities

Part-time Workers Should Not be Excluded from Promotion Opportunities


  • Date: Friday 16th August 2019
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A recent case in the education sector highlights the risks of disadvantaging employees on flexible or part-time working arrangements when internal job opportunities and promotions arise.

Catharine McCormick was a part-time teacher at her school in County Down and worked three days a week following a return to work after maternity leave.  Although the school had fully granted her request for flexible working to accommodate childcare arrangements it did not consider her for a temporary promotion to Head of English because she was part-time.

The employee claimed the school’s actions amounted to indirect sex discrimination.

The demands of the post would mean full-time working however the school failed to give the employee the option.  The school subsequently acknowledged that in denying the employee the chance to apply it had disadvantaged her as a part-time employee. 

Key to the case is the fact that in Northern Ireland 39% of female employees work part-time in comparison to 9% of men and 82% of part-time workers are female.

Learning for Employers

Because of the high level of women in part-time jobs any measures which exclude part-timers from a post or an opportunity for promotion are likely to have a more adverse effect on women and amount to indirect sex discrimination.

It is vital that employers ensure that all recruitment and selection processes are transparent and open to all potentially suitable candidates irrespective of gender or hours of work.

Linked to this story is the “flexible working bill” that MP Helen Whately introduced to Parliament in July.  The bill, if passed would make flexible working the norm in employment contracts and require employers to advertise positions as suitable for flexible working unless specific conditions are met.  The MP recognises that many jobs needed to be done from a specific place at a specific time, so the bill will require employers to set out reasons why a job could not be done flexibly.  Effectively all jobs will be considered flexible unless the employer “opts out.”

We will continue to update on this story as the bill progresses through Parliament.

Source: Gavin Parrott


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