The European Court of Human Rights has handed down its decision in the interesting and controversial case of Redfearn v UK. Mr Redfearn was a member of the BNP and subsequently was elected as a local councillor.
He was employed by Serco as a driver ferrying children and vulnerable adults around Bradford. Many of the service users were of Asian origin.
During the local elections, Mr Redfearn was identified by the local press as a candidate for the BNP. Concerns were raised with Serco by trade unions regarding Mr Redfearn’s BNP membership. Following Mr Redfearn’s election as a councillor, Serco dismissed Mr Redfearn citing health & safety concerns as well as reputational damage.
Mr Redfearn did not have the requisite service to claim unfair dismissal, and instead brought a claim of race HR. The claim was dismissed by the employment tribunal. Mr Redfearn’s appeal was then upheld by the EAT, before the Court of Appeal reinstated the tribunal’s original decision and threw out the case.
Mr Redfearn then took his case to the ECHR claiming that in choosing to become a member of the BNP and to stand for election, he was engaging his right to freedom of expression and association and in being dismissed for his political beliefs, his exercise of those rights was unlawfully interfered with.
The ECHR upheld Mr Redfearn’s claim finding that the UK Govt had failed to provide protection against dismissal on the grounds of political belief. The Court did sympathise with the difficult position in which Serco found itself. However, the fact that Mr Redfearn’s political beliefs might be offensive to many was not in itself enough to justify his treatment. No complaints had ever been made in respect of Mr Redfearn’s behaviour at work, and indeed he had been nominated for an award of “first class employee” by his supervisor who was himself of Asian origin.
It is worth noting that subsequent to this case, the Govt has legislated in respect of HR on the grounds of religion or belief which might have afforded Mr Redfearn some additional protection.