Chester 01244 405555

Grosvenor Court
Foregate Street Chester
Cheshire CH1 1HG
DX: 19990 Chester

Shrewsbury 01743 443 043

Lakeside House
Oxon Business Park
Shrewsbury SY3 5HJ
DX: 148563 Shrewsbury 14

Manchester 0844 800 8346

Pall Mall Court
61-67 King Street
Manchester M2 4PD

Send us a message
Our Offices

Poppy ban not discrimination

8th December, 2011

Lisk v Shield Guardian Co Ltd and others ET/3300873/11

In this interesting case, seeking to push the boundaries of the definition of what a protected belief might include, Mr Lisk, an ex-serviceman, claimed direct discrimination in the Employment Tribunal after his employer, Shield Guardian Co Ltd, refused to allow him to wear a poppy on his uniform, which he claimed was discriminatory because of his philosophical belief.  It was a belief that “we should pay our respects to those who have given their lives for us by wearing a poppy from All Souls’ Day on 2 November to Remembrance Sunday“.  At a preliminary hearing, an employment judge considered whether his purported belief amounted to a philosophical belief protected by the Equality Act 2010 (the Act).

The term “belief” under the Act means “any religious or philosophical belief.”  The EAT gave guidance in Grainger plc and others v Nicholson [2010] IRLR 4 as to what amounts a philosophical belief.  It stated that the belief must be genuinely held; be a belief, not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available; 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.

Mr Lisk argued, with reference to the test in Nicholson, that he regarded the period from 2 November to 11 November each year as a period of mourning; and equated it to the seriousness with which he, a Christian, observes Lent.  Also, as an ex-serviceman, he considered it an obligation to show respect for the sacrifice of others.  He also argued that wearing the poppy is widespread in this country (and abroad) and does not conflict with anybody else’s rights.

His claims were rejected.  It was held that his belief was not protected under the Act. The judge held that the relevant question (to determine whether wearing a poppy was protected) is whether or not there is a philosophical belief underpinning the choice to wear a poppy.  It was held the belief that one should wear a poppy to show respect seems to lack the characteristics of cogency, cohesion and importance required by the Nicholson case.  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. The Employment Tribunal held that this was too narrow to be characterised as a philosophical belief.

Despite belief in climate change and anti-fox hunting previously coming within the scope of the law’s protection of philosophical beliefs, it is clear from this case that even though a belief may be worthy, even admirable (and the person holding it sincere in doing so); passionately believing in something is simply not enough in itself to meet all the conditions required by law.

If you have a uniform policy or a dress code, make sure any restrictions are communicated to all staff.  Please contact Catherine Kerr in our employment team for further information.


You might also be interested in...

Legal expert’s data protection workshops pull in the crowds

22nd May, 2018

With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force in May, businesses across Shropshire have been flocking to hear more about the new laws Paul Bennett, a partner at law firm Aaron & Partners LLP, has been delivering seminars in partnership with the Shropshire Chamber of Commerce An employment solicitor from Shrewsbury is urging businesses across the... Read More »

Experienced HR leader joins Aaron & Partners LLP

15th May, 2018

Experienced HR leader joins Aaron & Partners LLP Law firm with offices in Chester and Shrewsbury appoints Kate Robertson to drive HR strategy for more than 120 staff and to support the company’s growth Chester law firm Aaron & Partners LLP has strengthened its senior leadership team with the appointment of an experienced human resources manager. Kate Robertson... Read More »

When you should NOT pay the bailiff…

24th April, 2018

Jan Chillery, Insolvency Partner at Aaron & Partners LLP, shares her experience and the reasons why we should be cautious before paying so-called “bailiffs” over the phone or online without vetting them first. My neighbour has told me that recently he had a CCJ (County Court Judgment) against him. A day or so later, he received a phone call... Read More »

Contact Us