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Discrimination on the grounds of political belief

Posted on November 09, 2012

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Unsavoury Employees with Unsavoury Opinions?

What can you do when you discover that your employee holds unsavoury political opinions? If the employee breaches your equal opportunities policy, you may be able to bring disciplinary action against him. But can you dismiss him anyway?


Discrimination on the basis of religious or philosophical belief breaches the Equality Act 2010. Belief in climate change disaster can be a protected philosophical belief (Grainger plc v Nicholson), though wearing a poppy is not (Lisk v Shield Guardian). In order to qualify as a protected philosophical believe it must be:

  • genuinely held;
  • not be an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available;
  • be related to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour;
  • attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance;
  • be worthy of respect in a democratic society, and not incompatible with human dignity or in conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

Where does that leave the employee with unsavoury political views? In Redfearn v UK this week, Mr Redfearn was a bus driver dismissed by Serco when he was elected Councillor for the BNP, citing safety concerns about the risk of him attracting attack. He was unable to claim unfair dismissal due to his length of service and his race discrimination claim failed.


The European Court of Human Rights held that the UK does not give adequate protection from dismissal on the grounds of political party membership, that his right to freedom of assembly under Article 11 of the ECHR was infringed and that he should have had protection against dismissal connected to political party membership.


As a result, even unsavoury political views may become protected under the Equality Act 2010. Employees who propound extreme political beliefs may not have protection if they interfere with the fundamental rights of other colleagues, for example. However employers will have to think very carefully when considering dismissal as a result.


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