Marxists, humanists and pacifists could be protected from workplace discrimination on the grounds of their philosophical belief due to changes to discrimination law, which take effect today (30 April).
Changes to the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003 include an amendment which could potentially extend protection from discrimination to workers who hold a wide range of ‘philosophical beliefs’.
Cases concerning claims made by British National Party members that their fascist beliefs were similar to religious beliefs have previously been decided in favour of the employer. However, under the new law, a strong argument could be made to the contrary.
Audrey Williams, head of discrimination and diversity at Eversheds law firm, said: “While this is a relatively minor amendment to the current regulations, there could be far-reaching consequences.
“It is possible that people who adhere to any shared, philosophical belief system – such as animal rights activism, Marxism and humanism – could also be protected from workplace discrimination.”
The new regulations are likely to protect belief systems that can demonstrate a certain level of ‘cogency’ and ‘cohesion’ that are deemed to be in keeping with a democratic society, Williams said.
The changes also protect employees from discrimination based upon their association with someone else, such as their spouse.
Stuart Chamberlain, employment law expert at Consult GEE, said: “If a worker is married to a Muslim or someone with another belief but does not hold the same belief themselves, it is still unlawful for an employer to discriminate based on that association.”