Would You Believe It?

What is a “philosophical belief” under the Equality Act 2010? Cambridge employment solicitor Nick Sayer gives his view. 

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination in the workplace in respect of a number of ‘protected characteristics’, including religion, religious belief and philosophical belief.Nick Sayer

In Grainger plc v Nicholson (2010) the Employment Appeal Tribunal (‘EAT’) decided that a belief in climate change could amount to a philosophical belief. In that case, the EAT also gave the following guidance on how to determine if a particular belief amounts to a philosophical belief:

  • the belief must be genuinely held
  • it must be a belief (not an opinion or point of view) based on the present state of information available
  • it must be a belief as to a weighty or substantial aspect of human life and behaviour
  • it must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance, similar to that of a religious belief
  • it must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity, and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

More recently, in Olivier v Department of Work and Pensions (November 2013), the Employment Tribunal (‘ET’) found that Mr Olivier’s belief in democratic socialism could amount to a philosophical belief. In doing so, the ET took into account Mr Olivier’s strong connection with, and strong belief in the core values of, the Labour Party.

The ET did not go as far as deciding that membership or support of a political party could amount to a philosophical belief. Indeed, that point had been rejected by the EAT in Grainger. However, it is clear from the guidance given in Grainger that beliefs in a political doctrine (such as Marxism) are capable of amounting to philosophical beliefs and, thus, of attracting protection under the Equality Act for those who believe in them.

For more information

For further information or advice on any Employment Law matters, please get in touch with employment solicitor in Cambridge Nick Sayer or on Twitter @EmpLawNick