Grainger plc and others v Nicholson UKEAT/0219/09

Mr Nicholson was head of sustainability at Grainger plc and was made redundant in 2008. He successfully argued that his belief in man-made climate change and the existence of a moral duty to live in a way that mitigated or avoided it, was capable of being a “philosophical belief” for the purposes of the Religion or Belief Discrimination Regulations.

The case will now proceed to a hearing on the substantive merits of whether Grainger did actually discriminate on the grounds of his belief when dismissing him for redundancy. The EAT found that to fall within the Regulations a belief m

ust concern a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour and have a similar status to a religious belief. Mr Nicholson was able to demonstrate that his belief in climate change was so great that it affected many of his lifestyle changes such as not travelling by aeroplane, his choice of home and what he bought. The EAT set out in the case guidelines for determining what is a “philosophical belief” for the purposes of the Regulations.

Key point: The case raises uncertainty about what could constitute a belief under the Regulations but employers should always try to address any issue an individual finds offensive in the workplace in order to find a practical and sensible solution to the problem before it escalates or gives the employee a right to claim discrimination.