There have been news stories recently about the co-leader of the British branch of Generation Identity (“GI”), Mr Tom Dupre’, and his employer, Standard Charted PLC. The headlines state that Mr Dupre’ has been ‘fired’ but from reading the actual content of the stories, it appears that Standard Charted have simply confirmed that he is no longer an employee. Allegedly, these events were put in motion by a report to Standard Charted, by the organisation Hope Not Hate, of Mr Dupre’s involvement with GI.
Without further details, one cannot properly comment on this case from an employment law perspective, but it does potentially raise important issues.
If Mr Dupre’ has been dismissed because of his involvement with GI, I would expect him to argue that he has been directly discriminated against due to his philosophical belief, contrary to the Equality Act 2010. If he has been employed for at least 2 years, he may also argue that his dismissal was in any event, unfair, as there was no basis to suggest that he had failed to perform his contractual duties. In support of this assertion, he may refer to the fact that the complaint came from a third party, who is merely a political rival of his with no legitimate interest in how the company conducts its affairs.
The employer would probably argue that Mr Dupre’ was not dismissed because of his beliefs per se but for creating adverse publicity for them, or perhaps for ignoring their instructions. They may further argue that the belief is not sufficiently wide ranging or cogent to be protected under the Equality Act 2010 and/or is not worthy of protection in a democratic society.
The requirements for a belief to be protected under the Equality Act, are not derived from the act itself, but from case law, which has been influenced by the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights; for cases where discussion has taken place about what amounts to a philosophical belief and which beliefs qualify for protection, see here & here.
As to whether or not GI espouse a philosophical belief or beliefs, I would refer you to their website here. If democratic socialism can amount to a philosophical belief for the purposes of the act, then it is difficult to see how GI’s brand of nationalism does not.
As to whether a belief is worthy of respect in a democratic society, this criterion should be clearly defined in order to create legal certainty and I hope that future case law provides such certainty. For instance, it could include all philosophical beliefs other than those that advocate the violent overthrow of a democratically elected government or violence without any form of due process.
However, I fear that a tribunal may adopt a nebulous approach, given the various vague references in some of the case law. For instance, references to respecting the ‘dignity’ of others (‘dignity’ just means worthy of respect).
I suggested reforms to employment law, see here, to avoid this kind of uncertainty, i.e. the need for the Tribunal to decide what amounts to a philosophical belief and whether such beliefs are worthy of respect in a democratic society. Such reforms would constitute a far greater protection to free speech than the present status quo ante and would shift the focus to where it should be, the relationship between the expression of certain beliefs and the contract of employment.
As an aside, if people are dismissed from their employment and/or suffer other economic sanctions as a result of their political beliefs or associations, they are more likely in my view to resort to violent means in order to achieve their political objectives. One could argue that Hope Note Hate, who allegedly made the report about Mr Dupree, depend for their existence, on a perceived threat of political violence from what they would describe as the ‘far right’.