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Which of the following beliefs qualifies for protection under the Equality Act 2010?

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a. Belief in the immorality of blood sports
b. Belief in climate change
c. Belief that the dead can be contacted by spiritual mediums
d. Belief in the higher purpose of public service broadcasting

Answer: All of the above.

Most employers could be forgiven for thinking that only employees holding beliefs connected with an established and recognised religion are given protection from discrimination. However “stand alone” philosophical beliefs have been covered under UK law since 2007. As all of the beliefs above formed were genuinely held by the employees in question, had the necessary degree of seriousness and coherence and were worthy of respect in a democratic society, it was held that any discrimination based upon these beliefs could be described as unlawful.

However it is important to note that while an employee may hold a particular belief, they will not automatically be successful in a claim related to that belief. For example, a recent case from the Court of Appeal confirmed that while the employee did hold a philosophical belief in public service broadcasting, his employer was not aware that he did and as such his claim failed. If these two hurdles are overcome, the employee must also be able to show that he was treated less favourably because of his belief before he can succeed in his claim.

In reality provided an employer has a suitable grievance and disciplinary policy in place, and deals with employee issues consistently and fairly, the likelihood of successful claims of this nature is likely to be relatively low. Nevertheless it is worth bearing in mind some of the more obscure parts of discrimination legislation when choosing how to deal with employees, whether or not they have the two years service needed to bring a claim of unfair dismissal.

By employment law solicitor, Martha McKinley