What is “philosophical belief”?

The Employment Tribunal has found that an employee’s belief in “democratic socialism” could amount to a “philosophical belief” that was protected under the Equality Act (“the EqA”).

Under the EqA, it is unlawful to discriminate or harass someone on the grounds of their religion and/or religious or philosophical belief. In Grainger v Nicholson [2010] IRLR 4 (EAT), the EAT gave guidance on the meaning of “philosophical belief” for the purposes of defining a religion or belief in the (then) 2003 Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations.

To date, Tribunals have found that the following beliefs ARE capable of amounting to “philosophical beliefs”:

  • sanctity of life including anti-fox hunting and anti-hare coursing (Hashman v Milton Park (Dorset) Ltd T/A Orchard Park Garden Centre);
  • “higher purpose” of public service broadcasting (Maistry v BBC);
  • spiritualism, life after death and the ability of mediums to contact the dead (Greater Manchester Police Authority v Power); and
  • “it is wrong to lie under any circumstances” (Hawkins v Universal Utilities Ltd).

but NOT:

  • that the 9/11 and 7/7 terrorist attacks were “false flag operations” and part of a conspiracy by the UK and US governments (Farrell v South Yorkshire Police Authority);
  • Marxist/Trotskyist political beliefs (Kelly v Unison);
  • “cultural identity and ancestry, including the promotion and celebration of English culture and history”, (Marsden L’Anson v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police);
  • “consensual slavery” and bondage, discipline and sado-masochistic lifestyle (Shepherd v North and East Hertford Health Authority);
  • people should pay their respects by wearing a poppy from 2 November to Remembrance Sunday (Lisk v Shield Guardian Co Ltd); and
  • that Jews were “God’s chosen people” (Arya v London Borough of Waltham Forest).

With the exception of the EAT in Greater Manchester Police Authority v Power above, these decisions are only at Tribunal level and so not binding.


Deaf, hubby to Rachel, dad to Corey, Libby and Emily, Solicitor, Lecturer in Legal Practice at University of South Wales, PhD student at University of Leicester.

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