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HR Update

18 Nov 2019

CASE UPDATE: Conflicting protected characteristics?

A doctor was dismissed from his role when he refused to refer to transgender individuals’ by their preferred pronouns and titles on the basis that it conflicted with his Christian faith.

The Tribunal accepted that the doctor’s Christianity was a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. However it found that the doctor’s particular beliefs that God only created males and females, that a person cannot choose their gender and his objection to transgenderism was “incompatible with human dignity”. A refusal to refer to a transgender person by their chosen pronoun therefore constituted unlawful discrimination and harassment regardless of the doctor’s religion and belief.

CASE UPDATE: Veganism vs. Vegetarianism – a new protected characteristic?

An employment tribunal recently found that vegetarianism is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 in the same way that say, sexuality or gender is. The Claimant had brought a claim of discrimination on the grounds of religion and belief on the basis that his relevant belief was vegetarianism. The tribunal held that vegetarianism is not capable of amounting to a philosophical belief because it lacked “similar status or cogency to religious beliefs”. Part of the judge’s reasoning was that there are many reasons why a person doesn’t eat meat, be it for ethical, environmental or health reasons. Interestingly the judge commented that veganism did have sufficient cogency and cohesion to be a philosophical belief albeit this has not been tested by the higher courts.

ACAS: Menopause Guidance

ACAS have recently published new guidance for employer and managers on how best to support staff who are affected by the symptoms of menopause at work. Some of the key recommendations include:

  • Introducing a menopause policy;
  • Providing training to managers to ensure awareness and sensitivity when dealing with concerns;
  • Making adjustments where possible – e.g. allowing altered hours;
  • Considering easy and low cost assistance such as providing desk fans; and
  • Ensuring awareness of the relationship between menopause and employment law, including the risk of sex or age discrimination.

The above updates serve as a good reminder that equal opportunities training should be provided and policies reviewed regularly.

HR Update

Brexit

It is of course becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with the developments of Brexit and there is a strong chance that all has changed by the time you read this!

However, with news that there is to be a general election before Christmas, it is likely that worker’s rights post-Brexit will be one of the key policy battlegrounds.

Under Boris Johnson’s deal there was real concern from Labour and the Liberal Democrats that there was insufficient protection for workers’ rights post-Brexit, for example rights such as minimum amount of holiday, maximum hours in a working week and parental leave which are derived from European law.

It should be noted that domestic legislation goes beyond the requirements of EU law in many areas but this is still likely to be a hot topic. We will update you as and when we can!

For more information on any of the above, or how we can help you or your business, please contact our Employment Team on 0191 232 8345.