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Dismissal for inappropriate display of religious beliefs was not religious HR

BY Anita Mulholland
Employment Law & HR
BG Purple

A nursery manager has lost her claim for religious HR after her employer, a nursery, dismissed her for gross misconduct.

The manager, Anna Grace, was accused of manifesting her religious beliefs in such a way as to upset her colleagues. Examples included leading a pregnant colleague to believe she would suffer a miscarriage and telling another colleague that something was going to happen in the nursery which would have “a massive ripple effect” leaving her colleagues uneasy. 

Ms Grace alleged that the real reason for her dismissal was that she held conversations with colleagues about God during breaks and held bible sessions contrary to company policy. The tribunal rejected her claim, finding that the reason for her dismissal was not her religious beliefs, but her conduct in manifesting those beliefs in an inappropriate manner.  

The EAT was at pains to emphasise that Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights gives an absolute right to religious freedom, but a limited right to manifest that freedom. The EAT held that a dismissal for manifesting a religious belief in a disruptive manner was not in breach of Article 9 and was not religious HR. 

The case serves as a useful reminder to employers that, while religious beliefs must be respected, if an employee’s manifestation of belief is disruptive they can still take action on the grounds of inappropriate conduct.

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