We are all aware that this month is Pride and here in the RBHR Office, we have been discussing the key areas of inclusion that our clients should be mindful of. One of those areas, would be the right to free speech under the Equality Act and Human Rights legislation.
Now this is a sensitive subject and often means employers must look very carefully at the rights of their employees to free speech, even if their view might not necessarily be in line with the Company’s.
In fact, in a recent widely publicised Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) case, they overturned an earlier ruling in favour of the employer, after the company did not renew the contract of an employee who expressed anti-trans views on social media and company internal messaging. The EAT found that the previous Employment Tribunal (ET) had made an error by determining that these views were “not worthy of respect in a democratic society.”
Now of course, this is a complex case with a very specific ruling on its individual merits, but it does give us a lot of food for thought.
Even the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), said: “We think that a ‘gender critical’ belief that ‘trans women are men and trans men are women’ is a philosophical belief which is protected under the Equality Act religion or belief protections.” Adding that it was important the courts protected freedom of religion or belief, even for “highly contested beliefs”, and warned that a ruling to uphold the original ET “could have left people unprotected from discrimination and harassment and could result in a restriction of people’s freedom of speech on debates concerning transgender rights, Gender Recognition Act reform and definitions of ‘woman’ and ‘man’.”
However, the EHRC also said that there was a “difference between holding a belief and how that belief is manifested” and that this did not mean misgendering trans people or other anti-trans comments should be “free from consequence… or left unchallenged.”
If your company does ever find themselves in a situation where you believe an employee has made remarks in person or on social media that concern you, please feel free to contact the specialists here at RBHR, we are always available to help guide you.
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