Posted On / 07.09.2021

Are workers free to voice any philosophical belief in the workplace?

Are workers free to voice any philosophical belief in the workplace? This summer, the Employment Appeal Tribunal handed down a judgment which has significant implications for freedom of conscience and of speech. Peter Livingstone reports on the issue.  

Maya Forstater was a researcher and adviser.  When her consultancy was not renewed, she complained to the Employment Tribunal that the reason was because of her beliefs.  Some of her colleagues had been offended by tweets she had posted.  In the tweets, she had criticised the government's planned changes to the Gender Recognition Act. Though gender identity was an important part of the case, the judgment in fact related to the freedoms of belief and of expression protected by articles 9 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Equality Act 2010.  She lost in the Employment Tribunal and decided to appeal.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal, in finding for Ms Forstater on whether her beliefs were protected, said that with very few exceptions (such as relating to support for totalitarian or Nazi ideologies) workers are free to hold whatever philosophical belief they choose.

How they express that belief may, however, cause them problems in that their actions may amount to intimidation, harassment or bullying. That will depend entirely on the facts and what it is they have said and done.  The final hearing will be dealing with this aspect of the case.

The case, while supporting freedom of belief, does not mean employees with opposing views can discriminate against or harass others on account of their beliefs.

It creates difficulties for employers, who may be called upon to police the actions of their staff, to arbitrate between employees where there is a conflict of rights, and to discipline those who have taken things too far.

To read further about the case, click here.

For more information contact Peter Livingstone Email: peter.livingstone@battens.co.uk or call 01935 846235

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