Recruit with confidence

Inclusive recruitment is key to diversifying your workforce.

Our experts provide tailored support, whether you’re starting from scratch or reviewing your current practices.

Recruitment audit, training, policy review, and job design; we can support you with all stages of the recruitment process.

Talk to us about recruiting inclusively

A recent employment tribunal has ruled that Dr David Miller, a Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Bristol, was unfairly dismissed for his anti-Zionist beliefs and therefore had been discriminated against. What should employers consider in light of this case?

The tribunal ruled that “the claimant’s anti-Zionist beliefs qualified as a philosophical belief and as a protected characteristic pursuant to section 10 Equality Act 2010”, concluding that Mr Miller was unfairly dismissed. David Miller was dismissed by the University of Bristol for breaching several university policies, amounting to gross misconduct after carefully balancing the right of academic freedom with the responsibility to avoid offensive or harmful statements towards Jewish students and student societies.

The tribunal viewed Mr Miller’s beliefs to meet the criteria of a protected philosophical belief as defined by section 10 of the Equality Act.

Summary

  • In this case, Mr Miller’s statements were found to meet the test for protected beliefs.
  • The university’s application of their policies was inconsistent, and while some form of disciplinary action would have been appropriate, summary dismissal was not.
  • As an academic, Mr Miller’s freedom of speech has significant weight in the judgement. This would not necessarily be given the same weight in a non-academic context.
  • The tribunal noted that many people would find Dr Miller’s beliefs offensive. While his beliefs were found to be protected, this does not mean all protected beliefs can be voiced in the workplace without considering the impact on others.

To support staff who are being impacted by events, signpost to your mental health and wellbeing support and consider offering additional counselling sessions where available

Use our Mental Health guide to support you
A Black man sitting on a sofa, with his hands clasped. He is talking to a female counsellor.

Employers’ responsibility

Employers continue to be liable for acts of harassment and discrimination against staff committed in the course of employment. Everyone has right to freedom of thought, and beliefs that meet the Equality Act 2010 criteria for religious and philosophical belief are protected. There is a difference between holding a belief and how it is expressed. We are all responsible for what we say and do.  The right balance must be struck between how beliefs are expressed and the rights of others.

Our advice to employers

While decisions made at employment tribunals are not ‘binding precedents’ – therefore they cannot be used to set legal precedents in future – this is a live issue for many workplaces, and a topic that can bring significant stress, fear and pain for colleagues. Our advice is, always, to focus on inclusion:

  • To support staff who are being impacted by events, signpost to your mental health and wellbeing support and consider offering additional counselling sessions where available
  • Equip colleagues to avoid clumsy statements and microaggressions e.g., assumptions about what colleagues may feel or believe, sweeping statements about people’s faith, beliefs or cultural backgrounds
  • Educate staff on the difference between the protections towards those who hold a particular religion/belief and the need to avoid causing harm and exclusion to others
  • Support for bullying, harassment, dignity at work – remind colleagues about the need to demonstrate inclusive behaviour at work and that their behaviour towards colleagues should be professional and in line with your policies
  • Ensure colleagues are aware of reporting mechanisms and how these work, should they feel that they have been the subject of inappropriate conduct
  • Ensure those investigating complaints are suitably trained and knowledgeable so that they can navigate the complexities and also abide by your policies and the Equality Act 2010

In these volatile and uncertain contexts, focus on inclusion first.

Inclusive Employers have a number of resources linked to the themes raised in this case, download them for more guidance and support:

If you would like to talk us about anything raised in this tribunal update, our inbox is always open. Start the conversation by sending us a message using the form below: