What Is a ‘Philosophical Belief’? Employment Appeal Tribunal Considers

Is a genuinely held conviction that wasting public money is wrong a ‘philosophical belief’ that qualifies for protection under the Equality Act 2010? The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) considered that issue in the context of a police force worker who claimed that he had been persecuted for his commitment to thrift

The man argued that his determination to ensure value for taxpayers’ money was more than merely an opinion or a viewpoint, but a weighty, cogent and serious belief in respect of a substantial aspect of human life and behaviour. He complained to an Employment Tribunal (ET) that his employer had discriminated against him for holding that philosophical belief.

The ET agreed that his objection to waste was worthy of respect in a democratic society. However, in dismissing his claim, it found that his belief was parochial in nature and entirely confined to his workplace. It was a long way from the kind of religious or philosophical conviction that is afforded protection under the Act.

In allowing his appeal, however, the EAT found that the ET had given inadequate reasons for its decision. It had been open to the ET to find that the man’s belief, although narrow, was philosophical in nature and it was possible that the bar had been set too high. The issue was returned to the same ET for reconsideration.