UK law may need to be amended to protect employees from dismissal because of their political beliefs or affiliation.

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that a BNP bus driver’s right to freedom of assembly was infringed by the lack of remedy for his dismissal due to being elected as a local councillor for the BNP.  He had insufficient service to claim unfair dismissal and the Court of Appeal had earlier ruled that there was no breach of UK race discrimination law.

The right of freedom of assembly applies to all associations, including those with offensive views (which might fall foul of the test currently applied to religion or belief discrimination cases of being “worthy of respect in a democratic society”).

The European Court considered that UK law would need to be amended either to create an exception to the requirement for a qualifying period for unfair dismissal or a free-standing claim for unlawful discrimination on grounds of political affiliation, to enable the claimant to argue that dismissal was not justified in the circumstances. 

The government may decide to appeal the decision but, if not, a change in the law may be required.  In the meantime, private sector employers may well face attempts to argue that religion or belief discrimination law should be developed to protect political views. (Redfearn v United Kingdom, ECHR)