Climate change beliefs case is no cause for alarm, say experts

Employment experts have urged the profession not to panic following a ruling that employees’ philosophical beliefs should be legally protected.

Tim Nicholson, head of sustainability at property firm Grainger, last week discovered he could bring a tribunal claim against his employer after he claimed his environmental beliefs were the reason behind a decision to make him redundant from his firm.

The judge ruled that the eco-friendly views of Nicholson were philosophical beliefs and should be protected under equality law.

The case raised fears that with no definitive list of protected beliefs, employers were unaware of what could be covered by the legislation, leaving the system open to abuse.

However, Jo Stubbs, XpertHR employment law editor, told Personnel Today that such claims would have to be vigorously tested and cross-examined in court to establish a philosophical belief. The judge in the case set out guidelines for determining what a ‘philosophical belief’ amounted to, she said.

“The judge said the belief must be genuinely held; it must be a belief and not an opinion or belief based on the present state of information available; it must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour; it must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance; and 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,” Stubbs said.

Stubbs pointed out that the chances of Jedi Knights bringing a successful claim looked “slim” as the judge said they would fail on at least four of his criteria.

Nicholson will now be allowed to bring a tribunal case for unfair dismissal against his employer.

A report on the judge’s decision can be found in the XpertHR stop press section.

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