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Unfair Dismissal: Belief In Climate Change Akin To Religion

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Tim Nicholson claims he was because of his , which he alleges put him at odds with senior executives at former employer Grainger plc.

In March, an employment law judge ruled he could invoke legal protection against discrimination and claim , since philosophical beliefs are protected alongside s.

Grainger appealed the decision on the grounds that belief in climate change is "political" and a "lifestyle choice," which should not be compared to religion or philosophy.

This week, the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) rejected Grainger's appeal and found that a belief that carbon emissions must be cut to avoid catastrophic climate change was capable of amounting to a philosophical belief. 

In reaching its decision, the EAT held that, unlike the position pertaining to religious beliefs, Mr. Nicholson would probably need to be cross-examined on his belief in order to establish it.

The EAT also enunciated a new five-prong test to determine whether a philosophical belief is worthy of protection:

  1.  The belief must be genuinely held.

  2. It must be a belief and not an opinion or view based on the present state of information available.

  3. It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life.

  4. It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.

  5. It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

Humanism was given as an example meeting the criteria, while belief in a political party or the  were offered as ones that do not.

Nicholson's solicitor, Shah Qureshi, said: "This case confirms, for the ever increasing number of people who take a philosophical stance on the environment and climate change, and who lead their lives according to those principles, that they are protected from discrimination."

While Camilla Palmer, of Leigh Day & Co, said it opened doors for an even wider category of deeply held beliefs, such as feminism and vegetarianism. "It's a great decision.  Why should it only be religions which are protected?"

What is unfair dismissal?

In the UK, dismissal can be unfair for a variety of reasons, i.e.:

Under the Employment Rights Act, only employees that have a year's continuity of service at the date of dismissal, or who have been dismissed without notice and are within a week of gaining a year's continuity of service, can claim .

And claimants must comply with to claim unfair dismissal - normally, a claim must be brought within three months of the last day of employment.

** Additional information & advice **

You can obtain further information about , and  on .  Depending on your situation, however, you may prefer to .

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