Big Ben, London

IT boss, John Brooker, has unwittingly ended up the subject of press attention this week due to an email he sent out to his staff saying that those who vote Labour would be the first to be made redundant if Jeremy Corbyn’s party won the general election and “things slow[ed] down.”

Read the full story here:

Those reading this report by the BBC may have a range of reactions, from “The boss can’t do that, that can’t be right?!” to sympathy for where the business owner was coming from.

Given their regularity over the past few years we could all be forgiven for thinking that elections and/or a referendum have become an annual occurrence. Hopefully that will not prove to be the case, however, it is perhaps an opportune moment to take stock and consider what current protections there are for employees’ and workers’ political beliefs and philosophical beliefs, and whether they are fit for purpose given the current political climate.

The law around the protection afforded to employees because of their political beliefs has its own unique status. It is not automatically unfair to dismiss an employee because of their political views, but there is no qualifying period for an employee to bring a claim for unfair dismissal where they believe that they have been unfairly dismissed because of their political views.

This would mean that, if we take the story reported by the BBC as our starting point (and please suspend any scepticism here for a moment) had Labour won the election, and had Mr Brooker followed through with his threat, the employees dismissed first would have been able to bring claims for unfair dismissal, even if they had been with the company for less than two years (albeit they still would have had to show that the decision to dismiss them was outside of the range of reasonable responses). Given that it is common for employers not to follow a formal dismissal process when dismissing employees with less than two years’ service this is a potential banana skin.

It is also worth considering (notwithstanding the explanation that the email was sent “in jest”) if Mr Brooker were now to dismiss an openly Labour party supporting employee with less than two years’ service, they may point to this email as evidence of it being an unfair dismissal due to his political beliefs.  Tribunal litigation is very rarely a laughing matter.

An individual’s support for a particular political party alone will not be covered by the protections afforded under the Equality Act 2010. An individual has to pass the threshold of holding a philosophical belief to potentially be within scope.  So far as the discrimination legislation is concerned a worker who is not offered any more assignments because the boss does not like his political views potentially has no protection and on the face of it, would not be able to bring a claim for discrimination.

The team here at HRExpress are well versed in advising employers on unfair dismissal and discrimination matters.  If you are an employer contending with some tricky employment law or HR matters we encourage you to talk to a member of our team.  Claire Lawry is a Paralegal in the HRExpress team, advising organisations on HR and employment law issues. To discuss this or any other HR query, please call 01392 210700 or email