Sacked BNP member in human rights landmark

Posted: 8th November 2012

bus2A member of the British National Party (BNP) who claims that he was dismissed from his job on grounds of his political affiliations has won a landmark ruling at the European Court of Human Rights. The court decided that Arthur Redfearn had been denied an adequate remedy under English law in breach of freedom of association and assembly rights enshrined in Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr Redfearn had been prohibited from making an unfair dismissal claim against his employers on the basis that he had worked for them for only seven months prior to his dismissal and therefore lacked the one year of continuous service that was a legal requirement before such a claim could be made. Whilst claims relating to pregnancy, race, sex and religious discrimination were excluded from that requirement, this did not extend to unlawful discrimination on grounds of political opinion or affiliation.

By a majority, the court ruled it was incumbent on the United Kingdom (UK) to take reasonable and appropriate measures to protect employees, including those with less than one year’s service, from dismissal on grounds of political opinion or affiliation either through the creation of a further exception to the one-year qualifying period or through the creation of a free-standing cause of action for unlawful discrimination on grounds of political opinion or affiliation. As UK legislation was deficient in that respect, the court concluded that the facts of the case gave risk to a violation of Mr Redfearn’s article 11 rights.

Mr Redfearn had worked for Serco Ltd, a company that provided transport services to Bradford City Council, between December 2003 and his dismissal in June 2004. His role as a bus driver entailed carrying passengers, many of whom were children or vulnerable adults of Asian origin. During the period of his employment, he was elected as a local councillor for the BNP, which was at that time wholly opposed to any form of integration between British and non-European peoples.

He was summarily dismissed by Serco on grounds that his continued employment had the potential to cause health and safety risks and considerable anxiety amongst passengers and their carers. Precluded from instituting unfair dismissal proceedings due to his lack of one year’s continuous service, Mr Redfearn made claims of direct and indirect race discrimination which were ultimately dismissed by the Court of Appeal.