An employment tribunal has ruled that a Christian employee’s beliefs that gender cannot be fluid and that an individual cannot change their biological sex or gender were worthy of respect in a democratic society and could therefore be protected beliefs under the Equality Act 2010. (Higgs v Farmor’s School)

The tribunal found on the facts that the claimant’s beliefs did not involve behaving in a way to gratuitously upset or offend any person, and contrasted this with the beliefs of the claimants in Forstater v CGD Europe and Mackereth v Department of Work and Pensions that they should refer to a person according to their biological sex even if it caused offence; it was this aspect which the Higgs tribunal considered rendered the Forstater/Mackereth beliefs not worthy of respect.

However, on the facts the claimant had not been dismissed from her job as school pastoral administrator because of her beliefs, but because she had breached the school’s conduct policy on the use of social media.  She had reposted articles with inflammatory content on her Facebook page, which was visible to parents of children at the school and which could easily have been circulated more widely as screenshots. She therefore had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the posts, and the school had dismissed her because the posts could reasonably have led readers to believe that she held homophobic and transphobic views and she had made it clear that she did not intend to stop posting.

It is understood that Mrs Higgs intends to appeal the decision;  the EAT is due to hear Forstater in April 2021 and Mackereth has also applied for permission to appeal out of time.

Anna Henderson
Anna Henderson
Professional Support Consultant, London
+44 20 7466 2819