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Gender critical belief was a “philosophical belief”

An employment tribunal that decided a gender critical belief (including a belief that sex is immutable and should not be conflated with gender identity, and that trans women are men) was not a philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010 has had its decision overturned by the EAT. The EAT only decided on the preliminary issue of whether the claimant’s belief qualified for protection, and have yet to determine the claim’s merits (such as whether the claimant was unlawfully discriminated against).

The fifth criterion in Grainger v Nicholson requires the belief to be worthy of societal respect, comply with human dignity and not undermine the fundamental rights of other individuals. The tribunal held that the claimant’s gender critical belief failed this fifth criterion. But according to the EAT, it would take a very serious and extreme belief, gravely violating fundamental rights, to fail the fifth criterion. The EAT did not agree that the claimant’s gender critical beliefs satisfied this high benchmark, since the claimant’s beliefs were held to be shared amongst wider society and did not undermine the rights of trans people.

It was also held that the tribunal should not have relied on the fact that the claimant held an absolutist belief. Despite how strongly the belief is held, this does not warrant the removal of protections.

The judgment was not a part of the transgender debate, and the judgment does not deny trans people from discrimination or harassment protections.