§ Lord Laird
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What was their reason for obtaining an exemption from the European Equal Treatment Directive 2000/78/EC in relation to the employment of teachers in Northern Ireland. [HL216]
§ Baroness Amos
As stated in my Answer of 7 July (WA 81) an exemption from the Employment Directive: Council Directive 2000/78/EC was obtained only in relation to the recruitment of teachers in schools in Northern Ireland.
European Equal Treatment Directive 2000/78/EC as initially proposed would have meant that the exemption in the Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 would have had to be removed without having regard to the issues and sensitivities of the local community in relation to the education of their children and the complexion of their schools.
Following negotiations with the European Commission it was agreed that in order to maintain a balance of opportunity in employment for teachers in Northern Ireland while furthering the reconciliation of 85WA historical differences between the major religious communities, the provisions on religion or belief in the directive should not apply to the recruitment of teachers in schools in Northern Ireland in so far as is expressly authorised by national legislation.
This change was introduced by the Fair Employment and Treatment Order (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003 which came into operation on 10 December 2003.