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Couple lose HR case over refusal to accommodate gay couple

BY Margaret Anne Soderqvist-Clark
Employment Law & HR
BG Purple

In a highly publicised case, the Supreme Court has ruled against a Christian couple who refused to allow a gay couple to share a double bed in their B&B. 

The case of Bull & Bull v Hall & Preddy, involved a couple, Mr and Mrs Bull who ran a hotel.  They maintained a strict policy that only married couples could stay in rooms with double beds.  The policy applied to both heterosexual and homosexual unmarried couples. The Supreme Court, in a 3-2 majority decision upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal, that such a policy directly discriminated against  homosexual couples.  The Court also held unanimously that such a policy indirectly discriminated against such couples. 

The decision is the latest in a long line of cases where people with strong religious beliefs have sought to engage the principles of Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights which protects the manifestation of religious beliefs.  While there have been some notable victories (Ms Eweida’s claim to be allowed to wear a cross at work), the Courts have been reluctant to allow an individual’s religious beliefs to trump another individual’s right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of sexual orientation. 

Employers often face a difficult balancing act when it comes to accommodating the manifestation of religious beliefs in the workplace.  Where there is a perceived conflict between religious beliefs and business needs, advice from your legal manager should always be sought.

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