Are your beliefs ‘protected’ in law?

I’m sure many of you do not follow the employment case law. However, when it makes the six o’clock BBC news, it may be worth paying attention to.

Firstly, in case any of you have missed it, here are links to two articles about the said Employment Appeal Tribunal decision handed down today. The actual EAT judgement and a BBC article summarising it.

So, what are the implication for employers?

Well since the introduction of the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003 discimination of any employee on the basis of “any religion, religious belief, or philosophical belief” has been illegal. Religion and religious belief have been widely understood and consistently interpreteted, but philosophical belief is harder to define; and if you can’t define something, how can you prevent discrimination on the basis of it?

When the law was first introduced there were concerns about office banter over many a passionate belief – football teams for example. Employee A supports Local Team United and all other employees (and the boss) support Local Team City. Can office banter be deemed discriminatory if employee A is not promoted, not offered the same opportunities etc?

When is a political belief or a deep rooted way of life a philosophical belief protected in law?

How does this affect company policy on discrimination, bullying, harrassment and equality of opportunity?

This is a case which we should all now be watching.

Thoughts and experiences please.

4 thoughts on “Are your beliefs ‘protected’ in law?

  1. Personally, i think the law is going completely nuts… Not just in regard to employment law, but everything. There's barely any freedom of opinion any longer and I think it's only a matter of time before this all backfires in a massive way. Time will tell though.

  2. Some thirty years ago, a work colleague was an active supporter of a certain political party. However distasteful, he had a fundamental right to support,debate and publicize his cause according to the law. It did not prevent his promotion, until he relayed his more radical political views to customers, who found his extreme stance somewhat at odds to their own. However, the acceptability of a deep rooted way of life is very much in the eyes of the beholder.. who is qualified to judge what society will bear and what is right? Philosophical belief diversity should encourage healthy debate, and, however difficult to accept, not affect opportunity.

  3. In an ever increasing multi-cultural society, it is even more important to be respectful and understanding of other peoples beliefs and philosophies, however deep rooted they are. I do not believe people should be discriminated against.

    Although it is important to be respectful to individuals, it is also important for individuals to be respectful of the beliefs and philosophies of the company they choose to work for. If company A has a certain ethos or philosophy that contradicts the employee’s beliefs, then it would seem quite hypocritical for the employee to consider working for company A. If the employee felt strongly about their beliefs, then surely they would work for company B. It is important to have two way communication between the employee and employer so they can understand each others beliefs.

  4. Comments which have been emailed directly to me ……..

    Beverley said
    That's extremely interesting, and worrying. As a Jew, I am torn – on the one hand I believe in all the things that make Britain and its democracy great like freedom of speech – but on the other hand I know what happens when extremist views are allowed to go unchecked. Indeed, I have recently been involved myself in trying to stop some BNP propaganda being spread.

    You absolutely hit the nail on the head when you say how can you define philosophical belief. It is human nature that people holding & voicing extreme views in opposition to the majority in a workplace (or anywhere else) are likely to be marginalised, if not persecuted. Which is why there are these laws, I suppose.