Protected Belief Lawyers

Our Employment Law team will be able to assist and advise on the process that you should follow if the employer finds itself needing to discipline one of its employees. 

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Protected Beliefs 

Beliefs, large and small, form a fundamental part of who we are. Every person’s life is formed of an assortment of varying beliefs (or lack of), almost as unique as a fingerprint to each individual in the way that they differ, cross over and interact. The spectrum is vast – from football fanatics all the way to feminism and religious beliefs.

These common grounds of identity can become so embedded in our personality that when someone has a differing opinion or belief, if voiced in an inconsiderate way, it can cause harm and upset. For this reason, certain beliefs, in addition to religious beliefs, have been protected as ‘philosophical beliefs’ under the Equality Act 2010.

Our team of specialised employment lawyers, understand that this can be an upsetting and difficult period for those that find they are discriminated against or are accused of discriminatory behaviour. Our lawyers can help you navigate this complex area of law and help achieve resolve the matter whether this is via mediation or Tribunal claims.


What is a philosophical belief in law? 

Under the Equality Act 2010, there are nine protected characteristics. One of these is ‘religious and philosophical beliefs’. People hold vastly different views and beliefs, and although religious beliefs are easily recognisable, other beliefs have been recognised as protected under the Equality Act 2010.  

What is the test for a philosophical belief?

In order for a non-religious belief to be protected, it must meet all of the following criteria:

  1. It must be genuinely held
  2. It must be a belief, rather than an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available
  3. It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour
  4. It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance
  5. It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, be not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others

What beliefs are protected under the Equality Act 2010?

Beliefs that have been held as protected are ethical veganism, belief in man-made climate change and belief that a person cannot change their biological sex, even with a gender recognition certificate. On the flip side, fear of catching covid, vegetarianism and ethical veganism that included the belief that there was an unlawful act to prevent animal cruelty have not.

Whether or not a belief meets the criteria will ultimately be judged on a case-by-case basis.
What does this protection mean? 

If a person’s belief is considered a protected characteristic, it means that if that person who holds the belief is treated less favourably because of it in the workplace, they may be able to claim discrimination against their employer.

This less favourable treatment can be anything that puts someone with this belief at a disadvantage, compared with someone who doesn’t hold it. This could mean excluding the person from job opportunities, making it harder for them to do their job or causing emotional distress.

What should employers be doing? 

This is a difficult area and one that both employers and HR practitioners may find challenging to navigate.

It is therefore important that employers have a proactive approach to dealing with discrimination issues – so:

  • educating employees through training,
  • to clear policies and a strong clear stance to how unacceptable behaviour in the workplace will be dealt with.

This also requires clear ‘top-down’ buy in to ensure all levels of the business understand and recognise how to deal with matters of this nature.

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