Brain Food: Workplace Rights - Office Politics

To what extent should employees be free to propagate in the workplace minority views that may be offensive to other staff or customers?

by Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin solicitors, e-mail:employment@lewissilkin.com
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The issue was highlighted in 2004 when Serco sacked a Bradford bus driver, whose passengers were mostly Asian, after discovering that he was a British National Party (BNP) candidate. In a controversial ruling, he succeeded initially in a claim under the Race Relations Act that the dismissal was on 'racial grounds', which was held to cover his own views on race. The Court of Appeal has now reversed that decision, on the grounds that it turned the policy of the legislation upside-down. Logically, it would make it unlawful to dismiss one employee for racially abusing another.

Separate laws, introduced in 2003, currently prohibit discrimination against employees on grounds of religion or belief. A 'belief' for these purposes has to be a philosophical belief that is similar in nature to a religious belief - humanism, for example. But that qualification will be removed by an amendment later this year, potentially extending protection to political 'believers' such as pro- and anti-abortionists, animal rights activists and - bringing us full circle - possibly even BNP white supremacists.

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