As noted in my earlier report the National Union of Teachers is participating in the action now under way in the High Court to challenge parts of the new employment regulations. Below is a copy of the NUT Briefing Paper on this.
The Judicial Review is expected to last three days and it is envisaged that judgment will be reserved. I attended part of this morning’s session in Court 10 at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand.
On 17 March the High Court will hear a challenge to parts of the new Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003. The NUT claims that parts of the Regulations are unlawful as they have no legal basis in the E.U. Employment Directive which they are supposed to implement, and that they are in breach of fundamental human rights.
The Union’s main concern is that Regulation 7(3) allows too broad a scope for faith-based employers to discriminate against lesbians and gays on the basis of their sexual orientation. The Regulations allow religious organisations to discriminate against some employees if they can show they have done so in order to comply with strongly-held convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers, or in accordance with the religion’s doctrines. This could allow faith schools a very wide defence to a teacher’s claim of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, based on the supposed convictions of the religion’s followers.
Voluntary aided faith schools can already take into account whether a teacher has upheld the tenets of their religion under existing provisions in the School Standards and Framework Act 1998.
No union or non-religious interest group was consulted on this provision, which was a last minute change introduced by the government. It did not appear in the previous draft regulations and was not canvassed in the consultation documents published previously.
We are also concerned that the Regulations allow religious organisations to determine whether an employee or applicant is of a particular sexual orientation. They can discriminate if they are reasonably satisfied as to their sexuality even if they are mistaken.
The Regulations will introduce uncertainty, confusion and animosity. Committed teachers in faith schools may become vulnerable to misinformed or over-zealous application of the provisions. Already, some organisations that run independent schools have said that they will use this law to ensure that no lesbians and gays are employed.Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 17 March 2004 at 11:09 PM GMT | TrackBack