Efficiency in the public sector: a philosophical belief?

27 May 2016

Mr Harron worked for Dorset Police and made a series of complaints to his employer about what he saw to be poor use of public money. He claimed a detriment arising from his profound ‘belief in the proper and efficient use of public money in the public sector’ as discrimination on the basis of ‘philosophical belief’.

The Employment Tribunal (ET) rejected his claim that this belief met the criteria necessary to attract the protection of the Equality Act 2010 on the basis that it failed to meet 3 of the 5 criteria in Grainger plc v Nicholson. It was accepted that Mr Harron’s belief was genuine and that it was worthy of respect in a democratic society and therefore met criteria 1 and 5. However, the Employment Judge was not convinced that it was a “belief” as opposed to an “opinion”; that it related to “a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour”; or that it had attained the necessary degree of cogency, cohesion and importance.

The EAT allowed the appeal on the basis that it was unclear whether the tribunal had applied the proper approach to the Grainger criteria and it was unclear what its reasons were for the claimant failing to meet the criteria. It was remitted to the same judge to decide whether the belief fell within the scope of the Equality Act protection.

This decision does not clarify whether such a belief would amount to a protected belief for the purposes of the Equality Act. However, what is apparent is that employers should take claims of discrimination on the basis of a philosophical belief seriously because the EAT has made clear that the bar should not be set too high.

Further information

Should you have any questions about the issues raised in this blog post please contact Áine Kervick or a member of our employment team.

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