Copsey v WWB Devon Clays Limited

Copsey v WWB Devon Clays Limited, Court of Appeal, 25 July 2005

The Court of Appeal upheld a decision that an employee’s dismissal for refusing to work on Sundays was fair for ‘some other substantial reason’. The employer had done everything it reasonably could to accommodate the request not to work on Sundays, and there was no breach of article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Copsey was employed by a quarrying company. In response to an increase in orders, his employer introduced a rotating seven-day shift pattern. Copsey refused to adopt it and was allowed to work a six-day shift. But a further need for increased production led the employer to require all sand processing operators, including Copsey, to undertake seven-day shift working. Copsey indicated that his opposition to Sunday working was on religious grounds and was given a number of options, including alternative employment in another department, which he declined. He was dismissed.

He brought an unfair dismissal claim, arguing that the real reason for his dismissal was his religion. He also claimed there was an infringement of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the freedom to manifest his religious beliefs).

The tribunal found that Copsey was dismissed for refusing to accept the new shift pattern, and there were sound business reasons for the need to make these changes, namely the significant increases in production. Further, his dismissal was not in any way connected with his religious beliefs. Copsey’s appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) was unsuccessful, and it was also dismissed by the Court of Appeal.

  • Note: As Copsey was dismissed in 2002, there was no claim for discrimination on the ground of religion or belief as the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 only came into force on 2 December 2003.

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