Teachers’ union votes ‘overwhelmingly’ to end Northern Ireland teacher discrimination

7 April, 2021

The NASUWT teachers’ union voted ‘overwhelmingly’ at their annual conference this weekend to end the exemption to equality legislation that allows for discrimination against teachers in Northern Ireland based on their religion. The motion called on the NASUWT to lobby the Northern Ireland Assembly to remove Article 71 of the Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998. Northern Ireland Humanists welcomed the motion.

Currently, this exemption means that it is lawful for a teacher to be refused a position because of their religious or non-religious beliefs. Similar legislation exists across the UK. In Northern Ireland, it particularly affects employment in Catholic schools. In 2016 the UUP put forward a motion to end this discrimination but it was blocked by Sinn Fein and the SDLP.

Since then, Northern Ireland Humanists has been asking MLAs to support removing the exemption in the Order and has received broad support for this, including from Sinn Fein MLAs.

The NUT and ATL, two other unions, have also previously adopted UK policy against faith-based discrimination in teacher employment. Since then the two unions have merged into the National Education Union (NEU). The NEU is also a member of the Accord Coalition, which campaigns on such matters in England and Wales.

Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator commented: 

‘Discrimination against teachers on the basis of religion is a major issue in Northern Ireland, and one we have been speaking to lots of MLAs about. It is great to see NASUWT now also support equality for teachers. We hope to see a clear path to removal of this discriminatory piece of legislation in the near future.’


For further comment or information, please contact Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator at boyd@humanists.uk or phone 02890 029946.

Read the NASUWT press release.

Read more about Northern Ireland Humanists’ work on education.

Northern Ireland Humanists is part of Humanists UK, working with the Humanist Association of Ireland. Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.