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Review: Discrimination - a Guide to the Relevant Law by Michael Rubenstein

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How on earth does one review the 31st edition of a book that has existed in essentially the same form for (no surprises here) 30 years? I first made the acquaintance of this book in the office of the Free Representation Unit, when volunteering there as a student in 1993. I was delighted. Here in one slim and clearly laid-out volume was an instant introduction to all the most important discrimination case law; its contents page alone provided a map of the territory, invaluable to a complete beginner. It was no substitute then, and is no substitute now, for reading the cases themselves: but over the 25 years that followed I have found it a consistently helpful short-cut to finding the cases I need to read properly.

Michael Rubenstein is one of the great and the good of employment law. He is a former chairman and now honorary vice-president of the Industrial Law Society, editor of the Industrial Relations Law Reports since they began in September 1972, an honorary Master of the Bench at Middle Temple and many other things besides. Editing the Industrial Relations Law Reports must have given him an encyclopaedic knowledge of employment case law rivalled by few in the profession.

This book is a distillation of that knowledge. It is an essentially simple idea: short summaries of a carefully-curated selection of the leading decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal, organised by subject-matter, many of the sections prefaced by a quotation of the domestic or European legislative provision under consideration.

Because the organisation is thematic, some cases recur several times under different headings. There is no attempt to summarise the facts of the cases: each entry is a succinct statement of a legal principle. Some are admirably succinct: the shortest, one of the two entries for Mandla v Lee [1983] IRLR 209, reads simply ‘Sikhs are a group defined by “ethnic origins.”’  

My only criticism is a minor one. It would be helpful to the busy practitioner rounding authorities for a hearing if where there is an ICR report of a case, that citation were given alongside the IRLR citation.

What more can I say? The book is as essential as it ever was. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best.

Thanks to Naomi Cunningham of Outer Temple Chambers for preparing this review.