Dismissals relating to political opinions
The government has just announced an amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill which is currently making its way through Parliament. The amendment means that an employee will not have to meet the two year qualifying period to bring an unfair dismissal claim, “if the reason (or, if more than one, the principal reason) for the dismissal is, or relates to, the employee’s political opinions or affiliation”. Any dismissal on such grounds will not be automatically unfair – it will be assessed by the tribunal under the normal principles of the current law determining fairness of ‘ordinary’ dismissals.
This amendment has been introduced in light of the November 2012 decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Redfearn v United Kingdom. You may recall that in this case, Mr Redfearn was a driver in a business which provided transport services for public authorities (including Bradford City Council). Most of his passengers were Asian. Mr Redfearn was identified as a Council candidate for the British National Party. After the union and members of his employer’s workforce raised concerns about this, Mr Redfearn was dismissed by his employer. He did not have the required service to bring an unfair dismissal claim and so brought his claim under race discrimination legislation instead. His claim was ultimately dismissed by the Court of Appeal which found that this claim fell outside anti-discrimination legislation.
An application was made to the European Court of Human Rights which found that UK law is in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights because it does not extend specific protection to employees dismissed on the grounds of their political beliefs or affiliation. The recently announced proposed amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill seeks to remedy this.