Fear of catching coronavirus is not protected belief

Employers recalling employees to their offices will be interested to read the preliminary ruling by Manchester Employment Tribunals in December, who found that a fear of catching coronavirus is not a protected belief and therefore not reason enough for an employee to refuse to return to the office and, by extension, that such a fear is not in and of itself a reason to avoid dismissal.

In X v Y, the ET found that while an employee’s fear of catching coronavirus by returning to work may have been genuinely held, and may also be a “widely held opinion”, it also does not amount to a belief and therefore it is not caught within the terms of section 10 of the Equality Act 2010.

In order to meet the definition of a protected ‘philosophical’ (rather than religious) belief, the belief must meet the five criteria set out by the EAT in Grainger Plc and others v Nicholson, which are:

(i) The belief must be genuinely held;
(ii) It must be a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available;
(iii) It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour;
(iv) It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance;
(v) 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.

Posted on 02/01/2022 by Ortolan

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