As expected, tribunal claims made during the pandemic have been somewhat delayed however we are now getting more of an understanding of the stance of tribunals on some of the decisions made by employers.
In July 2020, a woman known as X, refused to attend work as she was scared that she would catch coronavirus and passing it on to her partner “who is at high risk of getting seriously unwell from Covid-19”. In a statement provided to the tribunal she stated:
“4. I made a protected disclosure in good faith and asserted my statutory employment rights about a danger to the health and safety of myself and others, which I reasonably believed to be serious and imminent.
- [XX] told me that he would not be paying me, and he said, “I do not accept you had a reasonable belief that returning to work would put you or your husband in serious and imminent danger”.
- I then had my wages withheld and I suffered financial detriment.
- I claim this was discrimination on the grounds of this belief in regard to Coronavirus and the danger from it to public health. This was at the time of the start of the second wave of Covid-19”
A preliminary hearing was listed to decide whether her ‘belief’ was protected under section 10 of the Equality Act 2010 (which makes religion and a religious or philosophical belief protected characteristics). During the hearing, the Tribunal Judge enquired as to what her belief was, to which she stated, “A fear of catching Covid 19 and a need to protect myself and others”.
In order to be protected under section 10, a belief must fulfil the following requirements:
- The belief must be genuinely held
- It must be a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available
- It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect on human life and behaviour
- It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance
- 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
In conclusion, the tribunal found that it did not meet the 5 criteria above and therefore was not a philosophical belief under section 10 of the Equality Act 2010. Full details of the conclusions can be found at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/61c2df2e8fa8f54c18a64100/X_v_Y_-_2413947_2020_-_Reserved_-_Preliminary.pdf
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