Northern Ireland

New fair employment laws for teachers will ‘tackle prejudice and hatred’, says NASUWT

The Fair Employment (School Teachers) Bill passed in the Assembly in 2022 comes into operation tomorrow

The new law will come into operation on Sunday
The Fair Employment (School Teachers) Bill will come into operation on Sunday (Getty Images)

A new law that means teachers will no longer “be denied the opportunity to teach or to lead schools based on their religious belief” comes into force on Sunday.

The NASUWT said the introduction of the Fair Employment (School Teachers) Bill will “tackle prejudice and hatred”.

The teaching union has welcomed the law, which finally comes into operation two years after Royal Assent was given to the Bill.

It means that teachers will be able to apply for jobs without being asked about their religious backgrounds.

Previously schools could effectively discriminate on the grounds of religion when appointing teachers.

It had been justified because all grant-aided schools were required by law to provide a daily act of collective worship and religious education in line with a specified Christian core syllabus.

The NASUWT said that the previous law had “allowed for an exemption in relation to equality of opportunity and fair participation in employment for members of the Protestant and Roman Catholic communities in Northern Ireland”.

“The practical effect of this is that it until now it was not unlawful to discriminate against someone in an appointment process on the basis of their religious belief,” the union added.

Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT general secretary, said: “Teachers should always have had the same legal protection as other workers and despite taking two years to become operational, this development is nevertheless welcome.

“Discrimination is damaging to children’s education and to the wellbeing and careers of teachers.

“Removing the exemption will support efforts to tackle prejudice and hatred and will help schools to nurture and promote social inclusion.”

Justin McCamphill from the NASUWT NI. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA
Justin McCamphill from the NASUWT NI. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA

Justin McCamphill, NASUWT national official NI, added: “Tomorrow, we will celebrate that teachers are no longer second-class citizens in Northern Ireland and will have the same protections in law as all other employees.

“Employers have had two years to get their houses in order as regards the employment of teachers.

“The NASUWT will be paying close attention to the long-standing practice of bringing teachers in without interview by misusing the NISTR register and the chronic level of nepotism in teacher appointments.

“From tomorrow if any NASUWT member believes that they have been discriminated against on the basis of their religious belief they should contact the union immediately.”