Thursday, 22 March 2012

Equality & Diversity News: No.3 March 2012

In this issue:

  • European Court of Human Rights rules for the first time on Anti-Gay case 
  • Showing homophobia and transphobia the Red Card
  • Job sharing seen as critical for retaining senior women 
  • What’s a philosophical “belief” and what isn't
  • Dismissal for unauthorised time off for pilgrimage was not discrimination 
  • Requirement to work Sundays was not religious discrimination.
  • Age discrimination in the provision of services and public functions.
  • Equality and Diversity Crossword

European Court of Human Rights rules for the first time on Anti-Gay case

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has handed down its first ever ruling on anti-gay “hate” speech, in a Swedish case where a group of young men put a hundred or so leaflets in or on the students’ lockers at a secondary school. The leaflet said:

“In the course of a few decades society has swung from rejection of homosexuality and other sexual deviances to embracing this deviant sexual proclivity. Your anti-Swedish teachers know very well that homosexuality has a morally destructive effect on the substance of society and will willingly try to put it forward as something normal and good.
–Tell them that HIV and AIDS appeared early with the homosexuals and that their promiscuous lifestyle was one of the main reasons for this modern-day plague gaining a foothold.
–Tell them that homosexual lobby organisations are also trying to play down paedophilia, and ask if this sexual deviation should be legalised.”

The Swedish courts convicted them of “agitation against a group of persons with allusion to sexual orientation” and were fined or given suspended sentences (quite lenient sentences in the scale of things).

The men appealed to the ECHR invoking Article 10 (freedom of expressions).

In a very thoughtful and well argued decision, the court balanced the right to “freedom of expression” against whether interference by the Swedish state was prescribed by law and “necessary in a democratic society…for the protection of the reputation or rights of others” (article 10(2)). After considering these issues they found that their convictions were lawful.

This judgement is extremely welcome as a milestone in the recognition of gay rights. It recognises the State’s ability to limit anti-gay or indeed other forms of hate speech, at least in schools and probably in other areas as well. But the full decision is worth reading to see the complex balancing acts that were undertaken, and the complexity and controversial nature of the issues involved.

Read the full case at:

Showing homophobia and transphobia the Red Card

Premier league clubs show homophobia and transphobia the red card
All 20 premier league football clubs have signed up to the Government's sports charter to tackle homophobia and transphobia in sport. There are currently no gay professional players in the UK who are prepared to be “out” in public. In signing the voluntary charter launched by the Home Office, the clubs have pledged to challenge discrimination and work to rid football of homophobic and transphobic abuse both in the stands and on the field.

See Home office press release at:

Job sharing seen as critical for retaining senior women

The ability to offer a reduced-hours working week is a critical factor for the retention and progression of women, according to new research from Working Families. Some 87% of those surveyed said that having the ability to job share meant the difference between staying with a company, or leaving. Moreover, 61% of senior women surveyed said they would like the opportunity to job share.

What’s a philosophical “belief” and what isn't

Three Employment Tribunal cases have come to some interesting conclusions about what a “belief” is under the Equality Act 2010 protection from discrimination on grounds of “religion or belief”.

I feel particularly pleased with the one about vegetarianism, as I have been saying in training sessions that this is likely to be covered by the legislation since the regulations became law in 2003 (now superseded by the Equality Act 2010)

Basically they concluded as follows:

"public service broadcasting (BBC values) has the higher purpose of promoting cultural interchange and social cohesion" is held to be a philosophical belief.  Maistry v BBC [2011] EqLR 549 (ET/1313142/10, 29 Mar 2011 
Beliefs about the relationship between human beings and animals, which include a commitment to vegetarianism and sympathy for Buddhism, fall within the religion or belief discrimination legislation”. Alexander v Farmtastic Valley Ltd and others (ET/2513832/10, 13 Oct 2011) 
A claimant's belief that it is necessary to show respect to those who gave their lives by wearing a poppy was not a philosophical belief for the purposes of the religion or belief discrimination legislation.     Lisk v Shield Guardian Co and others [2011] EqLR 1290 (ET/3300873/11, 27 Sep 2011)

Dismissal for unauthorised time off for pilgrimage was not discrimination

An employment tribunal has found that dismissal for taking unauthorised leave to go on a pilgrimage was not direct or indirect religious discrimination. It found the employee had not been treated any less favourably than other employees in similar circumstances. It also found that the employer's rules prohibiting the taking of holidays during busy periods did not put Catholics at a particular disadvantage as there was no religious requirement to go on a pilgrimage.
Moise v Stretton Ltd [2012] EqLR 91(ET/3203326/09, 10 Nov 2011)

Requirement to work Sundays was not religious discrimination

An Employment Tribunal found that an employee who refused to work on Sundays as he is a Jehovah's Witness was not discriminated against, either directly or indirectly, on religious grounds where all staff were on a rota and Sunday working was shared out equally. It was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
Patrick v IH Sterile Services Ltd [2012] EqLR 92 (ET/3300983/11, 7 Nov 2011)

Age discrimination in the provision of services and public functions

The Government has decided to delay a decision on implementation of its proposed ban on age discrimination in the provision of services, which it had envisaged bringing into force in April 2012.

Ministers are still considering the scope for and content of any exceptions from the ban, in the light of responses to the consultation in 2011. The Government considers it preferable to take a little more time both to get the decision right and to give businesses and others affected more time to prepare and adjust as necessary.

Any ban is unlikely to come into effect before October 2012 and the Government will set out a way forward in due course.

Equality and Diversity Crossword

In the last few newsletters I have included a game or quiz. This month it is a World religions crossword from York College. You will need to go to the following web-site to complete it. There are also helpful tips (and answers):


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