ECHR rules on protection of political belief.

Posted: 14th November 2012

In Redfearn v UK, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that UK law must provide employees with adequate protection against dismissal on the grounds of membership of a political party.ECJ

Mr Redfearn worked for Serco Ltd. as a driver and escort for disabled adults and children in the Bradford area. In June 2004, he was elected as a local councillor for the BNP and was dismissed by Serco as the company feared that his continued employment would present a health and safety risk to its employees and passengers. It was also concerned that its reputation might suffer as a result of its association with the BNP with the possible loss of its contract with the council.

Mr Redfearn was not entitled to bring a claim of unfair dismissal because he had not been employed for the requisite 12 months, so he instead brought a claim of discrimination contrary to the Race Relations Act 1976.

The Employment Tribunal rejected his claim but an appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) was successful. The Court of Appeal subsequently overturned the EAT’s decision.

Undeterred, Mr Redfearn took his case to the ECHR, complaining of a violation of his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

In the ECHR, the majority held that Mr Redfearn’s dismissal did disproportionately interfere with his right to freedom of assembly and association pursuant to Article 11 of the Convention. Although the matters about which he complained did not involve direct intervention by the state, the ECHR found that there is a positive obligation on the authorities to provide protection against dismissal where the dismissal is motivated solely by the fact that an employee belongs to a particular political party, or at least to provide the means whereby an independent evaluation of the proportionality of such a dismissal can be made, taking into account the particular circumstances of a given case.