What to do if an employee is a BNP member

Mishcon de Reya employment lawyer Beth Leng says, like any dismissal, there are risks involved for the employer. “There’s the standard risk of unfair dismissal, and the risk if an employer acts unreasonably – regardless of the reason why they’re firing someone,” she notes.

The issue with dismissing a member of staff because they’re part of the BNP is that person may be able to make a claim under the 2003 religious discrimination regulations.

“In April 2007, the definition of ‘religion’ or ‘belief’ changed,” Leng says. “The law previously said ‘any religious belief or similar philosophical belief’; ‘or similar’ has now been removed. At the time, there was no intention to widen the ambit of the regulation. However, it’s as yet untested. I’m sure that far right groups like the BNP will test the law to see if the tribunal will have any sympathy to extend the definition.”

If you’re still seriously thinking about progressing with dismissal, Leng says you should first consider the conduct of the employee at work, and your equal opportunity and diversity policies.

“You need to act within the terms of those policies,” she says. “If you’ve got someone who has been actively voicing discriminatory values and beliefs in the workplace, they will be in breach of your policies. If you’re relying on a breach of those policies, provided you dismiss the employee reasonably, you’ll be as safe as you can be.

“If you automatically dismiss everyone who is a member of the BNP, you’re going to face a significant risk.”

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