The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) was recently asked to overturn the decision of an employment tribunal that the dismissal of a non-executive director of an NHS Trust had not been grounds for a claim of discrimination because of religious belief and victimisation.

The claimant, Richard Page, a practising Christian, was also a lay magistrate sitting on family cases involving adoption decisions.

The tribunal was told that he holds the firm faith-based belief that it is “not normal” for a child to be adopted by a single-parent or a same-sex couple. The public expression of those views led to disciplinary action in respect of his magistracy.

Mr Page then participated in media interviews about that action without informing the Trust and was instructed to inform it before contacting the media in the future.

He was subsequently removed from the magistracy and, before the Trust could speak to him about that removal, took part in a further televised interview with BBC Breakfast News, during which he expressed the view that he could not see how adoption by a same sex-couple could ever be in the best interests of the child.

Mr Page was thereafter suspended by the Trust and his term as a non-executive director was not renewed. His subsequent claims of discrimination (direct and indirect) because of religious belief and victimisation were dismissed by the tribunal.

On appeal

The EAT has decided (in the case of Richard Page vs NHS Trust Development Authority, available at https://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKEAT/2019/0183_18_1906.html) to reject Mr Page’s appeal.

It found that the tribunal had not erred in law in finding that he was treated as he was because of the manner in which he had expressed his beliefs (rather than because of the beliefs themselves).

It took account of the fact that he had spoken to the media without informing the Trust and had done so in the knowledge that his conduct would be likely to have an adverse effect on the Trust’s ability to engage with sections of the community it serves.

The EAT also ruled that the tribunal had not erred in concluding, in accordance with the principles established in Martin v Devonshires Solicitors, that the various reasons relied upon by the Trust for its treatment of Mr Page were properly separable from the allegations of discrimination which he was making against the Lord Chancellor and others in respect of his removal from the magistracy.

Last reviewed 4 July 2019