Thanks to Ed McFarlane of Deminos HR for preparing this case summary
Is a belief that public service is improperly wasteful of money protected as a ‘philosophical belief’ under the Equality Act 2010?
Potentially, yes, held the EAT in Harron v Dorset Police, remitting an employment tribunal’s dismissal of the Claimant’s discrimination claim for re-consideration.
The Claimant worked for Dorset Police. 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 regarded the Claimant’s belief as not protected as a ‘philosophical belief’, applying the five criteria set out in Grainger plc v Nicholson (belief in ‘climate change’).
The employment tribunal rejected the claim on the basis that it failed to meet 3 of the 5 criteria in Grainger. The EAT held that it was not clear that the employment tribunal had taken the correct approach to applying two of the five criteria in Grainger to determine if the Claimant’s philosophical belief was protected, and sent the case back for reconsideration.
The EAT noted that ‘belief’ must relate to matters that are more than merely trivial, but also cautioned against setting the bar too high. The EAT also said that the employment tribunal did not err in finding that a belief that operated merely in the workplace would have too narrow a focus to be qualify for protection. The proper approach is to apply Grainger and the statutory Code of Practice for the Equality Act to see if a belief qualifies for protection.