Bus driver dismissed because of his British National Party membership

David Reid
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Bus driver dismissed because of his British National Party (BNP) membership wins case in European Court of Human Rights.

In a majority of four votes to three, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled that a UK bus driver should not have been dismissed for being a member of the British National Party (BNP) on the basis that to do so breached his right to freedom of association.

In 2004 Mr Redfearn, a BNP councillor, was dismissed from his job driving disabled passengers, the majority of whom were of Asian descent. Prior to his political affiliation being made public, no complaints had been made against him by service users or colleagues. However, once elected as a BNP councillor, complaints were made and he was summarily dismissed.

Redfearn did not have the requisite qualifying service to bring a claim of unfair dismissal but brought a claim of race discrimination to the Employment Tribunal instead. His claim was ultimately rejected by the Court of Appeal on the basis that the discrimination was political and thus outside the scope of UK anti-discrimination laws.

However, the ECtHR held that it was incumbent on the UK to take reasonable and appropriate measures to protect employees from dismissal on grounds of political opinion or affiliation either through the creation of a further exception to the unfair dismissal qualifying period or through a claim of unlawful discrimination because of political opinion or affiliation. It has been suggested that it may now be argued that political views should be treated as falling within the scope of philosophical beliefs for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010.

This case highlights the fact that any decision to dismiss will carry inherent risk and it should be noted that Redfearn’s original appeal to the EAT was allowed on the basis that the employer had given no consideration to alternatives to dismissal. Employers are therefore urged to think carefully about the overall reasonableness of any decision to dismiss, and seek legal advice where appropriate.

Full story can be found here.

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