You are here: Home » The Issues » Education
As in any profession or work place LGBT people make up part of the workforce. In schools it is especially important that LGBT staff members are free to be visible and ‘out’ in order that young people identifying as LGBT have positive and affirming role models. However many LGBT teachers perceive that significant cultural and legislative barriers stand in the way of being ‘out’ in their workplaces.
GLEN works with Teachers' Union organisations and and legislators to support LGBT teachers and to ensure that they are fully protected in their employment in schools.
Ireland has very progressive and protective legislation for employees across nine grounds including sexual orientation. You cannot be fired on the ground of sexual orientation through the Unfair Dismissals Act 1993 and the Employment Equality Act 1998 offers further protections. However this latter Act contains an exemption (Section 37.1) with regard to religious ethos:
A religious, educational or medical institution which is under the direction or control of a body established for religious purposes or whose objectives include the provision of services in an environment which promotes certain religious values shall not be taken to discriminate against a person for the purposes of this Part or Part II if-
a) it gives more favourable treatment, on the religion ground, to an employee or a prospective employee over that person where it is reasonable to do so in order to maintain the religious ethos of the institution, or
b) it takes action which is reasonably necessary to prevent an employee or a prospective employee from undermining the religious ethos of the institution.
While there have been no cases taken to date on this exemption its presence has an enormously negative impact upon the ability of LGBT teachers to be 'out' within the work context and creates a 'chill factor' around LGBT staff and religious schools and other institutions.
It is a priority for GLEN to ensure that both in law and in preception an LGBT teacher is fully protected in their employment.
Current situation on Section 37.1
A Bill amending Section 37.1 of the Employment Equality Act passed all stages in the Seanad in July, 2015. The Bill, when it completes its passage through the Dáil, will give much greater legal confidence to LGBT people working in religious run employments that are funded by the tax payer, to live openly and enjoy the same employment protections as their co-workers.
Read GLEN's press release on the Bill here.