This month we look at several aspects of the Equality Act through the lens of religious discrimination, race discrimination and harassment. We also take a look at how one should properly calculate holiday pay so as not to fall foul of the Working Time Regulations.
- Religious Discrimination: EAT remits Facebook posts case and sets out principles underpinning proportionality assessment
- Race Discrimination: Judgment against qualifications body held not to be Meek-compliant
- Harassment: Claimant must be aware of the unwanted conduct in order for it to amount to harassment
- Holiday Pay: How to calculate holiday pay on termination of employment
Religious Discrimination: EAT remits Facebook posts case and sets out principles underpinning proportionality assessment
In Higgs v Farmor’s School  EAT 89, the EAT held that in dismissing a direct religion or belief discrimination claim brought by a Christian employee following complaints relating to her social media posts which criticised the nature of sex education in schools (including gender fluidity and same sex marriage) the employment tribunal had erred in that it failed to:
- conclude that there was a close or direct nexus between the employee’s Facebook posts and her protected beliefs
- determine the reason why the employer acted as it had, and
- assess whether the employer’s actions were prescribed by law and necessary for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others
The proportionality assessment, which the tribunal had not carried out, was necessary to determine whether the employer’s actions were because of, or related to, the manifestation of the employee’s protected beliefs, or were in fact due to a justified objection to the manner of that manifestation.
The EAT also set out basic principles that underpin the approach adopted when assessing proportionality of any interference with rights to freedom of religion and freedom of expression to assist tribunals and to better inform employers and employees as to where they stand on issues arising from the manifestation of religious or other philosophical beliefs.
Race Discrimination: Judgment against qualifications body held not to be Meek-compliant
The case of General Medical Council v Karim  EAT 87 concerned a claimant doctor who was subject to an investigation by his employer. That led to a referral to the General Medical Council (GMC). The employment side of things was settled when he resigned and a settlement agreement was entered into. However the GMC matter continued. The claimant then made a claim of discrimination by the GMC as a qualifications body, making various complaints in relation to its handling of the matter.
The employment tribunal upheld some (but not all) of the complaints of direct race discrimination on the basis that the burden of proof had passed but not been satisfied.
The GMC appealed to the EAT.
Allowing the GMC’s appeal, the EAT held, in summary, that the tribunal had failed to engage with key aspects of its case, and so produced a decision which was not Meek-compliant; and reached some findings and conclusions at different points that were conflicting or contradictory.
Harassment: Claimant must be aware of the unwanted conduct in order for it to amount to harassment
In Greasley-Adams v Royal Mail Group Ltd  EAT 86 the EAT had to consider (amongst other grounds of appeal) whether an employment tribunal had failed in its analysis of the claimant’s claims of harassment under section 26 of the Equality Act 2020 by not having regard to conduct of which he was not aware.
The EAT, dismissing the appeal, held that only conduct of which the claimant was aware could amount to harassment. This was because:
- the perception of the person claiming harassment was a key and indeed mandatory component in determining whether harassment had occurred
- as confirmed by the relevant authorities, if there was no awareness, there could be no perception.
Holiday Pay: How to calculate holiday pay on termination of employment
In Connor v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police  EAT 42 the EAT considered the provisions of a ‘relevant agreement’ reached in relation to holiday pay on termination of employment and how these compared to the calculations provided for by the Working Time Regulations 1998 (‘WTR’) and found it not to be compatible.
In this case the Claimant’s employment contract stated that holiday pay on termination of employment would be calculated based on 1/365th annual salary. This meant, on that upon his termination, he received a lower payment for accrued holiday than that which he would have received using the calculation set-out in the WTR.
The tribunal held that the 1/365th calculation was a valid ‘relevant agreement’ under Regulation 14(3) (which states that the amount of holiday pay due on termination of employment is either that which would be prescribed if the formula set out in the WTR were applied or such other sum which is stated to be payable on termination of employment pursuant to a ‘relevant agreement’) and that therefore there had been no unlawful deduction from the claimant’s wages.
The EAT disagreed. They held that a ‘relevant agreement’ under Regulation 14(3) on the payment of holiday on termination of employment cannot result in a payment which is lower than that which would be calculated using the method set out in the WTR. The Claimant was entitled to the higher amount. . Regulation 14 provides a method of calculation for the purposes of regulations 13 and 13A for an incomplete leave year. The entitlement to annual leave, and payment, are not modified by regulation 14. The regulation provides a formula of calculation which promotes the right to annual leave and the attendant payment for holiday. The phrase “such sum as may be provided for the purposes of this regulation in a relevant agreement” refers to any agreement that provides a formula which is in keeping with the rights provided for in the regulations.
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