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Dismissal based on Marriage Breakdown could be Marriage Discrimination

10 June 2020 #Employment

In the recent case of Gould v St John’s Downshire Hill, the EAT had to decide if the dismissal of a church minister relating to his marriage breaking down was discrimination on the grounds of marriage. 

The Tribunal dismissed the Claimant’s claim.  On the facts it found that his dismissal was due to his behaviour resulting from the marital breakdown and not due to any moral or religious belief that he could not continue to serve as his marriage had broken down.  The EAT upheld the decision but stated that the outcome would have been different if unmarried ministers would have been treated differently for displaying similar conduct or if he had been dismissed due to a belief that the breakdown in his marriage itself meant that he could not retain his role.  

This case provides useful clarification on the law relating to marriage discrimination and employers should take notice of this when faced with a similar situation.  It may be a fine line between dismissal for the marital breakdown itself and conduct relating to this and employers should consider this carefully and seek advice before taking action to reduce the risk of claims here.

Clarkslegal, specialist Employment lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.
For further information about this or any other Employment matter please contact Clarkslegal's employment team by email at by telephone 020 7539 8000 (London office), 0118 958 5321 (Reading office) or by completing the form on this page.
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Louise Keenan

Louise Keenan

T: 0118 960 4614
M: 0779 900 7325


Employment team
+44 (0)118 958 5321