Political Beliefs at Work

GMB Union v Henderson

It’s worth getting a good grasp of the legal protections that exist for people who hold philosophical beliefs. As the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) pointed out in this case, these may be just as fundamental or integral to a person’s individuality and daily life as are religious beliefs.

Mr Henderson was a Regional Organiser for the GMB. A tribunal found that he was fairly dismissed for gross misconduct (upheld on appeal) but that he had suffered unlawful direct discrimination and harassment on the basis of the protected characteristics of his “left-wing democratic socialist beliefs”. The Union won its appeal of the discrimination and harassment finding.

While discrimination and harassment wasn’t proved here, this case makes some important points about the breadth of protection afforded by discrimination legislation. The tribunal found that left-wing democratic socialism is a protected belief for the purposes of the Equality Act; a decision which wasn’t challenged on appeal. The EAT went on to make clear that all qualifying philosophical and religious beliefs are protected equally in law.

The EAT also held that it is perfectly possible for a dismissal to be both fair and unlawfully discriminatory. That’s provided the tribunal makes findings of facts that are supported by evidence, that the relevant statutory test is applied correctly, and the conclusions are reached by reference to the facts found.

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