Under the Equalities Act 2010 it is prohibited to discriminate against someone on the grounds of religion or belief. The tribunals have often had to consider what in fact constitutes a ‘belief’ such that it is protected.

Following the case of Gray v Mulberry [2018] UKEAT/0040/17/DA it has been held that for a philosophical belief to attract protection of the Equalities Act 2010 the belief must have

  • sufficient cogency to qualify and
  • sufficient people must hold the belief so that the person is part of a group.

In this case, Ms Gray was asked to sign a contract of employment that included a standard contract clause assigning copyright in her work to her employer. She refused to sign it on the basis that she believed that it would give them ownership rights over a novel and screenplay she was writing I her own time. She continued to refuse to sign the contract despite it being amended to exclude any such work and she was eventually dismissed.

She claimed; rather hopefully, her belief in the sanctity of copyright law was a philosophical belief and thus a protected characteristic under the Equalities Act 2010.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal, after considering the necessary limbs for establishing a philosophical belief, held that the tribunal was entitled to conclude that the belief lacked sufficient cogency to qualify under the Equality Act 2010. Of more interest, the EAT held that even if it was wrong, there could be no indirect discrimination because Ms Gray was (as far as the evidence went) the only person known to hold such a belief. Accordingly, there could be no disadvantaged group, as she was not part of any group. Permission has been granted to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

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