EAT upholds Employment Tribunal decision that Christian doctor was not discriminated against

John Cook

In Mackereth v DWP [2022] EAT 99, the Employment Appeal Tribunal heard an appeal against the dismissal of discrimination claims where the claimant had refused to agree to the use of preferred pronouns due to religious reasons.

The claimant, a Christian doctor was employed as a health and disabilities assessor where the role was to carry out assessments of claimants for disability-related benefits.

He believed that a person cannot change their sex/gender at will and therefore would not agree to the use of a trans person’s chosen pronouns.

This conflicted with the employer’s policies. The employer attempted to clarify the claimant’s position to see if his beliefs could be accommodated. The claimant left his employment with the respondent and brought claims of harassment and discrimination relying on the protected characteristic of religion or belief. The claimant also relied upon statements of religious and philosophical belief.

Under section 4 of the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010), religion or belief is a protected characteristic. Section 10 of the EqA 2010 defines “belief” as any religious or philosophical belief, and a reference to belief includes a reference to a lack of belief.

In determining whether a particular belief is protected under the EqA 2010, the EAT in Grainger Plc v Nicholson UKEAT/0219/09 set out the following criteria that must be satisfied:

  • The belief must be genuinely held (first criterion).
  • It must be a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available (second criterion).
  • It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour (third criterion).
  • It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance (fourth criterion).
  • It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, be not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others (fifth criterion).

When this case was first heard by the Employment Tribunal it accepted that Christianity was a protected characteristic but found the claimant’s particular beliefs did not meet the Grainger criteria (particularly the fifth criterion) and that he had not suffered less favourable treatment or been harassed. It found on the facts that he had not been called out of work and interrogated about his beliefs, that he had asked to be excused from work himself rather than suspended, and that the DWP and APM had merely been seeking to explore how his beliefs could be accommodated without making any decision.

On appeal the Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the original decision that there was no direct or indirect discrimination or harassment.

To read the full case click HERE

John Cook – Solicitor

John Cook

I am a qualified Solicitor with over 30 years’ experience running a business, managing a team, appearing in the Employment Tribunal and advising on almost every conceivable employment law and HR issue. Clients appreciate my down to earth and straight forward approach that allows them to achieve results and manage their organisation more effectively. I take the worry out of employment law and HR issues with a proactive and robust approach.