Political news

Colleges defend asking job applicants their political persuasion

Belfast Metropolitan College in the Titanic Quarter, Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell
Brendan Hughes

FURTHER education colleges have defended asking job applicants which political party best represents their views on equality monitoring forms.

The issue was first raised in December over the question being used for South Eastern Regional College (SERC) posts.

And further concerns have been raised after it was noticed on monitoring forms for Belfast Metropolitan College (BMC) applicants.

Christopher Bailie of the Workers Party called on BMC to explain, saying that some people "may feel uncomfortable applying for jobs".

Colleges NI, which represents the north's six colleges, said the form has been developed in consultation with the Equality Commission to meet monitoring requirements.

"The job application form to be completed to apply to work in any of the six regional further education (FE) colleges in Northern Ireland includes the completion of an equality monitoring form," a spokeswoman said.

"As public bodies, the FE colleges must comply with Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 which requires collation of equality categories, of which political opinion is one."

The Equality Commission said the legislation does not define political opinion, and the commission does not recommend a question to get this information as it is "is a matter for the public authority".

"The category can be viewed in a number of different ways, including political party preferences, voting intentions, core political beliefs or the unionist/nationalist divide," a spokeswoman said.

"We would also note that completion of these monitoring questions is not compulsory for applicants."

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