Croke Park extension proposals could force female State employees to quit their jobs, according to former head of the Equality Authority Niall Crowley.

He said this was because the proposals will deepen gender inequality in the public service.

Mr Crowley carried out an equality audit on the proposals on behalf of unions campaigning for a No vote.

At a briefing to outline his findings, he said the proposals would disproportionately affect women workers and those with family or caring responsibilities.

Mr Crowley voiced particular concern about proposed changes to flexible working arrangements, work sharing, redeployment, and continuing reductions in head count.

He said women are far more likely than men to take up flexible working to reconcile work and family life.

Mr Crowley said work-life conflict and time poverty will increase for such women, and the Croke Park proposals could serve as a "push factor" for them to leave the workplace.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, which led the Government side in the Croke Park negotiations, said it was confident of best practice equality measures across the public sector.

It said provisions in the public service compared favourably with measures in the private sector, and expressed confidence that that would continue to be the case.

A spokesperson for the largest public service union, IMPACT, which is campaigning for a Yes vote, said that if there were no Croke Park II deal in place, there would be no protection for flexible working arrangements.

It said that employers would pick them off one by one.