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Wearing a poppy at work is not a "belief" for the purposes of discrimination law

09 November 2011 #Employment

The Equality Act 2010 (“EqA 2010”) prohibits discrimination in the workplace because of religion or belief.  Guidance from case law states that a” belief” must:

  • be a belief, not an opinion;
  • be genuinely held;
  • be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour;
  • attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance; and
  • be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

In Lisk v Shield Guardian Co Ltd and others, Mr Lisk claimed religion or belief discrimination after his employer refused to allow him to wear a poppy at work. He argued that, as an ex-serviceman, he considered wearing a poppy obligatory to show respect for the sacrifice of others.

The employment judge rejected Mr Lisk's claims.  The judge held that the belief that one should wear a poppy to show respect lacked the characteristics of cogency, cohesion and importance required.  Similarly, the belief that we should express support for the sacrifice of others cannot fairly be described as being a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.

Another recent case held that an anti-fox hunting belief was capable of being protected by the EqA 2010.  Clearly, it is very difficult to know which beliefs are covered by the legislation and which are not.

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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