Like buses, cases on UK religious and philosophical beliefs tend to come in groups. You’ll have seen several of these in the news recently, and it’s not easy to decode what is and isn’t now protected. This article seeks to disentangle fact from fiction, and protected philosophical belief from employee opinion.
Under UK anti-discrimination law, three types of belief are protected: religion, religious belief, and philosophical belief. It’s the latter in particular which has been the subject of recent debate and developments.
To better understand these criteria, it is helpful to look at concrete examples:
However, one ethical vegan’s belief that she had to break the law to relieve animal suffering was not worthy of respect in a democratic society and so was not protected. When it first came to the tribunal in 2019, a gender-critical belief that sex is immutable was deemed to be incompatible with human dignity and in conflict with the fundamental rights of others, but this decision was reversed on appeal on 6 July.
It is also worth bearing in mind that indirect discrimination (where a provision, criterion or practice of the employer would put a group with a protected characteristic at a particular disadvantage) can be legally justified if it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
If it is impossible or impracticable to operate a policy which is not indirectly discriminatory, for example where there is a conflict between two protected characteristics, the best way forward may well be to lawfully indirectly discriminate against one of these groups.
Indeed, in a case decided in late June, the belief that gender is immutable was (here too) held to be a protected philosophical belief, but the employer’s indirectly discriminatory policy requiring the employee to use transgender persons’ preferred pronouns at work was deemed justified.
Read the full article here.