Teachers' exemption from the Fair Employment Act is 'outdated,' according to the Northern Ireland Education Department

Teachers’ exemption from the Fair Employment Act is ‘outdated,’ according to the Northern Ireland Education Department

According to a union, the exemption of teachers in Northern Ireland from fair employment legislation is “outdated” and should be repealed.

That exemption has been criticized by a number of MLAs, including former first minister Arlene Foster.

The NASUWT, a teachers’ union, is the latest to push for the exception to be repealed. Teachers are protected from Northern Ireland’s anti-discrimination statute when it comes to hiring.

The removal of the exemption, according to the NASUWT, will “address endemic nepotism and a lack of diversity in the teaching profession.” On Tuesday, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) convention in Belfast will hear the union’s motion.

It demands for the exception to be repealed with the support of the larger trade union movement

The NASUWT stated, “The practical result of this is that it is currently not prohibited to discriminate against someone in an appointment process on the basis of their religious belief.”

Teachers and clergy were exempted from the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act of 1976 because “the essential nature of the employment requires it to be done by a person holding, or not holding, a specific religious belief.”

The Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 upheld this.

The exemption allows schools to hire teachers based on their religious beliefs or backgrounds. It also implies that schools are not required by law to investigate the backgrounds of their teaching staff.

“The exemption of teachers from the religious discrimination laws is largely accepted, and advocacy for reform is a minority perspective,” the Equality Commission concluded in 2004 after investigating the exemption.

The Catholic church was concerned, according to the Equality Commission, that eliminating it would result in Catholic schools losing their religious atmosphere and becoming non-denominational.

Protestant churches were also concerned that Protestant instructors would be disadvantaged as a result of the requirement for Catholic primary school teachers to hold a certificate in religious instruction.

The commission recommended that the exemption for post-primary schools be repealed, but no changes to the law were implemented.

“It clearly should go from post-primary schools,” said Geraldine McGahey, chief commissioner of the Equality Commission. “We think there should be a determined attempt to find a method to remove it from basic schools as well.”

A number of assembly members have been skeptical in recent years of teachers’ recruiting being exempt from fair employment regulations.

According to study conducted by the Unesco Education Centre at Ulster University (UU) in 2019, it may have contributed to the fact that few instructors from Protestant backgrounds teach in Catholic-run schools, and vice versa.

“Actively examining its position on the subject,” the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) said.

The exception, however, “should stay in place until any suggestions for repeal can be proved to give entire confidence to the future of, in our case, Catholic education,” according to CCMS.

The exception is “outdated and needs to be eliminated,” according to NASUWT Northern Ireland official Justin McCamphill.

“We are calling on the first and deputy first minister to remove this and ensure that every teacher has equality of opportunity and is able to apply for work in any school regardless of their religion or perceived community background,” he said.

The leaders of the five main political parties in Northern Ireland are also expected to speak at the ICTU conference at the Waterfront Hall on Tuesday.


The number of people on NI payrolls has reached an all-time high

The number of people on NI payrolls has reached an all-time high

Official numbers reveal that the number of paid employees in Northern Ireland increased by 1.3 percent last month compared to before the outbreak.

Employee numbers in Northern Ireland reached a new high of 762,000 in July, according to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra).

It’s the second month in a row that numbers have topped pre-Covid levels from March 2020. Payroll data from HM Revenue and Customs is the most up-to-date and accurate single indicator of the labor market.

In July, the number of employees was anticipated to be 762,600, up 1.3 percent from March 2020 and 3.1 percent more than the same period previous year. It includes furloughed employees, who numbered about 44,000 at the end of June.

The furlough program is set to finish in October, but it has already started to wind down. This could explain why there was a surge in redundancies in June and July, with 850 suggested in July. Near the beginning of the pandemic crisis, the establishment of the furlough system helped to stabilize the job market.

The unemployment rate in April-June 2021 was 3.8 percent, up 0.4 percent from the previous quarter and 1.2 percent from the previous year. The data were released on Tuesday in the wake of two major employment announcements in separate sectors of the economy. Wrightbus, based in Ballymena, will create up to 300 jobs as a result of new orders.

Jo Bamford purchased the company that went into administration in 2019. A total of 120 temporary positions are being converted to permanent positions. Mr. Bamford stated that by 2022, he expects to increase the employment from 56 employees two years ago to over 900.

Meanwhile, over the next four years, Workrise, a US company, will create more than 150 technology jobs in Belfast. The Austin-based company combines building projects with laborers.

Invest Northern Ireland has granted the company about £1 million in support for the 153 new jobs, which will pay much above the private sector average.

A gas storage project off the coast of Northern Ireland has been approved, creating 400 jobs during construction

A gas storage project off the coast of Northern Ireland has been approved, creating 400 jobs during construction

A Marine Construction Licence has been granted to a gas storage project off the coast of Northern Ireland, allowing it to begin construction.

The project will generate 400 new jobs. The Islandmagee Energy gas storage project will begin with seven gas storage caverns.

When completed and fully operational, the gas caverns in County Antrim will hold approximately 500 million cubic metres of natural gas and provide Northern Ireland with “security of supply” during peak demand for up to 14 days.

Ballylumford, Northern Ireland’s main gas-powered power station, is located on the Islandmagee peninsula and provides half of the province’s power.
It is also the terminus of the existing Scotland-Northern Ireland gas pipeline, making it an ideal location for this type of project.

The UK is said to have one of Europe’s lowest gas storage capacities, with only 1% of annual demand in storage, making it less resilient to supply issues than other European countries, which store up to 30% of annual demand.

When completed, the Islandmagee gas storage project will account for more than 25% of the UK’s storage capacity.

John Wood, Group CEO of Islandmagee Energy’s parent company, Harland & Wolff, said: “This is good news for consumers and businesses in the UK who are currently experiencing distressing hikes in energy prices and fears of potential blackouts as gas and power grids face peak demand stresses during the winter months.

“With the current energy supply crisis, everyone now understands just how important gas storage is to secure supply and protect against extreme volatility in gas and power prices in the UK.

“We are delighted with this major step forward in the project’s journey, paving the way for the construction of our facilities. We look forward to playing a greater role within the energy sector and in securing a safer future for all.”

Islandmagee Energy also plans to store hydrogen in the long run.

“Large-scale hydrogen storage will enable the UK to make the most of excess renewable energy as it transitions to net zero,” said John Wood.

“The existing power grid cannot always accept all of the electricity generated from wind farms during periods of surplus wind power generation.

“It is during these frequently occurring periods that wind farms are temporarily scaled back as there is no way to store the excess electricity produced. Production of large-scale hydrogen and its storage is the long-term solution to this.

“Excess wind generated power can be used to produce green hydrogen which can then be stored in salt caverns for future use during peak demand periods.”

During construction, 400 direct jobs will be created, as well as between 800 and 1,200 indirect jobs, with an annual economic impact of around £7 million.

It is also estimated that during this stage, for every £1 million of capital expenditure, an additional £2 million will be created in the economy per year; this means that with 75% local content, the wider economy could benefit by around £400 million.

During operations, an additional 60 direct jobs are expected to be created, bringing in around £1 million per year to the local economy, and between 120 and 180 indirect jobs, bringing in an additional £2-3 million per year.

Barclay Communications

Barclay Communications in Northern Ireland has won new government contracts

Northern Ireland’s Barclay Communications has won two government contracts worth approximately £0.75 million.

Following competitive tender processes, the company won contracts with the Welsh Parliament and the New Forest District Council in Hampshire. In Wales, it will supply and manage hundreds of connections on O2, Vodafone, and EE for Welsh MPs in a two-year deal worth £250,000.

And its three-year Hampshire contract is worth £521,000 and covers over 750 connections, with room for expansion.

Barclay Communication will upgrade the organization’s entire communications hardware while also developing a package to protect the council’s sensitive data.

Britt Megahey, managing director at Barclay Communications, said: “We are delighted to add two more high-profile government contracts to our client portfolio.

“We have consistently invested in our business to ensure our customers are provided with bespoke and innovative communication solutions and as a result, it has allowed us to secure many tender wins for high-profile clients. I am proud to say that over 93% of clients continue to stay with us long after their initial contract term.

“Working with the Welsh Parliament has been a challenge that the Barclay Communications team relished.

“To fulfill the comms requirement for existing and new MPs, the solution had to be delivered within an exceptionally short time frame. We ensured handsets and connectivity were provisioned and onsite, ready for the required completion date.”

He added: “These significant new contracts speak volumes about the investment we have made in the business over recent months and the dedication our staff has to both our customers and our company.”

The contract awards come only two months after the Barclay Group invested £2 million in its landline division, creating 35 new jobs.

The Barclay Group has also undergone a complete rebranding of all of its companies, including a new website, in recent months.

ASOS to create 184 new jobs

ASOS to create 184 new jobs

The DfE skills academy will fill 130 positions for the e-commerce fashion giant’s £14 million Belfast facility.

ASOS, the online fashion retailer, announced today that it will invest £14 million in a Belfast tech hub that will employ 184 people. Economy Minister Gordon Lyons stated that the positions, which include data analysts and software engineers, will be filled over the next three years.

Many will be hired through a £1 million Department for Economy Assured Skills Academy with ASOS. The academy will screen potential candidates for 130 of the 184 positions. Invest Northern Ireland, an economic development agency, said it had been in talks with ASOS about a potential investment here for four years.

“Today’s announcement by ASOS is a clear vote of confidence in Northern Ireland and our strong appeal as an investment location,” Mr Lyons said.

“The development of the new Belfast tech hub, as well as the creation of over 180 jobs, represents a significant investment by the company in Northern Ireland.

“In exchange, our talent pool will provide ASOS with the high-quality engineering resources it requires to carry out its international expansion plans.”

He claims the jobs will generate nearly £6.5 million in additional wages for the local economy, with an average salary of around £35,000. Over the next three years, all 184 positions are expected to be filled.

“The first Assured Skills Academy with ASOS, focusing on data engineering and delivered by South Eastern Regional College, is now open for applications — I encourage anyone who is interested and eligible to apply for this exciting opportunity,” he added.

The hub will open its doors early next year, with 52 positions filled in the first year. Recruitment for a variety of positions, including engineering and data science, is already underway.

Invest Northern Ireland, which contributed nearly £1.2 million to the relocation, stated that the exact location of the hub had not yet been determined.

Nick Beighton, CEO, ASOS, said: “Our new hub will provide us with cutting-edge tech expertise to support future growth. Belfast has a wealth of tech talent and we’re excited to be establishing a permanent base in such a vibrant city.”

Cliff Cohen, chief technology officer of ASOS, added: “As we continue to scale our investment in technology, we are looking to hire talent across engineering roles into our new tech hub, and help foster talent in Northern Ireland by supporting its growing reputation as a centre for tech excellence.”

Kevin Holland, Invest NI’s CEO, said: ”The new roles will offer a range of opportunities for software engineers and analysts, development opportunities for those in the early stages of their tech careers and will provide exciting pathways for people to join Northern Ireland’s digital workforce. We very much look forward to supporting ASOS to grow in Northern Ireland.”

The ASOS Data Engineering Assured Skills Academy is accepting applications until 5 p.m. on October 22. The successful applicants will begin training on January 10.

The announcement of the hub comes as the DfE opens the application process for its £145 million Shop Local voucher scheme for brick-and-mortar retailers.

ASOS recently released its financial results for the four months ending June 30, 2021. It revealed that online UK sales increased by 36% to £526.4 million during the period. Over the same period, its Rest of World sales increased by 11% to £715 million.

It sells its clothes in over 200 different markets. In addition to its own brands, it sells many high street favorites, including its recently acquired Arcadia brands Topshop, Topman, and Miss Selfridge, which it purchased earlier this year for £265 million, plus £65 million for current and pre-ordered stock.

Lunn’s creating up to 40 new jobs

Lunn’s creating up to 40 new jobs

Lunn’s, a luxury high-end jeweller and watch boutique, is hiring up to 40 new employees as it opens four stand-alone brand stores in Belfast.

The family-owned company is establishing separate showrooms for some of its most popular watch brands. Omega, Breitling, and Montblack are among the brands represented, as is a Gucci Watches and Jewellery store.

Following a major revamp of the arcade in 2019, they will join the Lunn’s flagship store at Queen’s Arcade, as well as the Rolex and Tag Heuer boutiques that are already there.

The new stores are expected to be completed by the end of the year. It is hiring around 20 people for the new stores, as well as up to 20 people across the board.

The addition of new stores for four such iconic brands, according to John Lunn, managing director of Lunn’s Jewellers, is a “vote of confidence in Belfast and provides a boost for the city’s retail offering that will be popular with both local shoppers and international tourists as they begin to return to Belfast.”

“We are excited about Queen’s Arcade’s future and will continue to invest to make it one of Ireland’s premier shopping destinations,” he said.

Japanese Cyber security company to create 10 new jobs in Belfast

Japanese Cyber security company to create 10 new jobs in Belfast

With the opening of a new office in Belfast, a Japanese cyber security firm will create ten new jobs.

Nihon Cyber Defence (NCD), a Japan-based technology company, has also announced the appointment of two highly experienced cyber security professionals to senior management positions.

Dougie Grant, a former senior PSNI, and National Cyber Security Centre officer is the company’s Managing Director in Europe. Dougie was previously in charge of developing the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s (PSNI) law enforcement cyber capability on a local and national level, as well as working with the law enforcement cyber community.

Professor Ciaran Martin, the former CEO of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), will also join the company’s board of directors in Japan. He is currently Professor of Practice at the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford.

NCD, headquartered in Tokyo, offers cyber defense solutions, services, and support to governments, businesses, and public sector organizations to proactively identify and protect them from all types of cyberattacks intended to cause financial, political, or social disruption.
In response to the exponential growth of cyber threats, NCD intends to hire up to ten core staff members in Belfast over the next year to work with UK and Ireland customers and support its existing operations in Japan and other regional Asia-Pacific hubs.

Through its CEO Cartan McLaughlin, who is originally from Northern Ireland, NCD already has a strong connection with Belfast. Mr. McLaughlin stated,

“The establishment of a Nihon Cyber Defence office in Belfast has always been a long-term goal for us, and it’s exciting to see this come to fruition with the appointment of an outstanding local management team.”

“With this experienced and capable team, we will be able to build a safe and secure environment for our local and national businesses and industry.

“Belfast joins our head office in Tokyo and will lead NCD’s global incident management and response capability.”

Professor Ciaran Martin added that he is “delighted” to be working with the team at Nihon Cyber Defence in Tokyo.

“We continue to see the devastating impact of cyber-attacks globally, but we recognize that early preparation is key if we are to respond effectively,” he said.

“NCD is at the forefront of this capability delivering their expertise to the Japanese market and further afield.”

Dougie Grant said that NCD will be expanding “rapidly” protecting all sectors across the UK and Ireland and supporting the global operations.

“Being based in Belfast ensures we can recruit talent locally, developing the local partnerships and support industry and infrastructure across Northern Ireland,” he said.

NCD in Belfast will concentrate its assistance in the legal, accounting, critical infrastructure, and specialized sectors, offering proactive cyber services, network monitoring, and incident management capabilities to help organizations prepare for and respond to increasingly complex cyber risks and threats.

Connected Health, a homecare provider in Belfast, is offering a £100 sign-up bonus to new employees

Connected Health, a homecare provider in Belfast, is offering a £100 sign-up bonus to new employees

Connected Health, a home care provider, has announced a 4% increase in hourly pay to £10 per hour as part of a challenge to hire 100 care workers in a week.

Connected Health, based in Belfast, also stated that it is offering a separate £100 “sign-up bonus” to every care worker it hires this month, with the new hire then required to stay for at least three months.

The company stated that its recruitment drive was intended to address a staffing crisis in the industry. It plans to hire “hundreds” of new caregivers across Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and the United Kingdom over the next year. The company also announced a “significant” pay increase from £9.50 to £10 per hour, which it claims will make its employees “the best-paid care workers in Northern Ireland.”

When its carers began receiving a minimum hourly wage of £9.50 an hour earlier this year, Connected Health said it became the first home care company in Northern Ireland to pay the Real Living Wage.

According to Director Ryan Williams, there is a growing need for home care on both sides of the border.

“The NHS and the HSE are facing the same issue — the need for more people to be discharged from hospital.

“As a sector, we require many more carers working on the ground in their communities to help achieve that.

“Currently health services are experiencing winter pressures in the middle of summer and drastic action is needed to meet the substantially increased demand for home care workers.

“We are answering the call and this initiative is designed as much to raise awareness of the seriousness of the situation, as it is to help address it by increasing staff numbers.”

He claimed that the company could “easily” provide jobs for 1,000 qualified applicants, and that “the situation is the same right around the care sector on the island of Ireland and in the United Kingdom.”

Mr. Williams added: “Many more carers are needed on the ground today in their local areas, supporting vulnerable local people who need assistance to ensure they can live comfortably at home, as per their wishes.

“By doing this, they will be vastly improving the quality of life of those who wish to remain in their own homes, while also relieving the pressures on our struggling hospitals and stretched health services.

“We have to find the new capacity to meet the increasing needs of communities.”

Version 1 Recruitment Drive Launches in Northern Ireland

Version 1 Recruitment Drive Launches in Northern Ireland

Version 1 has announced a recruitment drive in Northern Ireland for all levels of technology-related positions due to significant growth. Version 1 continues to pioneer transformative IT solutions for global brands that drive significant, long-term customer success in this digital-first era of remote working.

Version 1 has seen tremendous growth in recent years, particularly in Northern Ireland, where they saw a significant increase in demand and growth across our customer base.

Customers include DAERA, Almac, Rural Payments Agency, Harrow Council, Ofgem, and major NHS organizations, to name a few. These organizations see Version 1 as their primary trusted technology development and digital transformation partner, and they are looking for talented technologists to join their team.

Their expansion is expected to accelerate further in 2021 and beyond. This has prompted the company to launch a recruitment drive for a wide range of positions in Development, Engineering, QA, Design, Platform, Data, Delivery, and other areas. If you want to join a strong company that is on a mission to make a real difference with IT, please register your interest in the current and upcoming positions here.

Version 1 is an IT Consulting and Outsourced Managed Services Company. Version 1 delivers technology-enabled solutions and services that transform its customers’ businesses. The Company delivers large-scale business transformation and product implementation projects, from business case to support, for leading insurance organizations. Version 1 is enabling access to better business information for leading retailers, increasing efficiency through high-impact and value-for-money solutions for public sector customers, supporting new market entry for leading utility companies, designing data platforms for business agility for national airlines, and much more.

EZ Living has created 25 new Belfast jobs

EZ Living has created 25 new Belfast jobs

After investing in a 9,000 square foot warehouse, furniture retailer EZ Living Interiors has created 25 new jobs in Belfast.

EZ Living Interiors will use the warehouse in Channel Commercial Park in Titanic Quarter for deliveries throughout Northern Ireland as well as custom collections. Amazon, which has a 411,000 square foot warehouse at Channel Commercial Park, is one of its neighbors.

“A central warehouse means our customers can easily collect smaller items six days a week, making our services more accessible to families whose free time is precious given the difficult times we find ourselves in,” said Oliver Campbell, store manager at EZ Living Interiors.

“We’ve invested in six delivery vans and three container lorries to ensure that furniture is delivered quickly and efficiently.

“Covid-19 has been a strain on everyone but at EZ Living Interiors we used the time as an opportunity to improve our customer experience, including better order fulfillment on our product range to ensure that our customers can have what they want quickly and easily.”

Belfast is home to two locations of the Irish furniture retailer.

Lisa McAteer, director at commercial property agency CBRE NI, secured the letting on behalf of landlord Titanic Quarter.

She said: “We are thrilled to have helped facilitate this extremely exciting phase of expansion for EZ Living Interiors, as the business up-scales to a new fulfillment and delivery facility in Belfast.

“There has been increased competition for industrial and logistics units in Northern Ireland over the last year due to Covid-19 and the surge in online retailing, which has led to a demand for manufacturing, storage, and distribution space.”

Titanic Quarter Ltd commercial director James Eyre stated that the park’s “strategic” location was a key deciding factor for EZ Living Interiors.
“They join several existing local, national, and international occupiers in the park,” says the park’s manager.