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Religious beliefs – not always protected

The ET has heard an interesting case relating to a person’s religious beliefs. The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. It replaced previous anti-discrimination laws with a single Act, making the law easier to understand and strengthening protection in some situations. It sets out the different ways in which it is unlawful to treat someone and provides protection from being discriminated against for a protected characteristic – which includes religious beliefs.
 
A doctor who worked for the DWP, and who is a Christian, refused to address transgender individuals by their preferred pronoun. He said that he would refuse to refer to ‘any six-foot tall bearded man’ as ‘madam’. As a result of this, he was dismissed and he made a claim for discrimination on the grounds of his religious beliefs. It was accepted that Christianity is a protected characteristic. However, the ET found that the doctor’s views were incompatible with human dignity and conflicted with the fundamental rights of others. As such, they were not protected religious or philosophical beliefs under the 2010 Act. 
 
The case highlights the importance to employers of ensuring that the delicate balance between religious beliefs and the rights of others in relation to sexuality are properly handled with well written policies and comprehensive induction processes. See Mackereth v DWP [2019] UKET 1304602/2018.
 

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