EAT: HHJ Tayler, EA-2020–000070-DA, EA-2021–000256-DA,  IRLR 17, 7 October 2021
The Claimant brought claims of direct sex and disability discrimination after she received a formal warning in respect of sickness absence which she attributed to menopausal symptoms. She also complained that when she had told her team manager that she was suffering from hot flushes he had told her that he also got hot in the office; that her appeal against the written warning had been exclusively male and that she had been refused a female doctor for an occupational health assessment. A tribunal struck out her claims, ruling that her menopausal symptoms did not amount to a disability and that the sex discrimination claim had no reasonable prospect of success. The EAT (Judge James Tayler) allowed the appeals, ruling that the symptoms of which the claimant complained (hot flushes and sweating, palpitations and anxiety, night sweats and sleep disturbance, fatigue, poor concentration, urinary problems and headaches) amounted on the evidence to physical impairments that were long standing (having lasted in excess of a year at the time of the hearing) and that the tribunal had erred in finding without explanation that they did not substantially affect on her ability to carry out day to day activities in view of the uncontested evidence thather symptoms resulted in her forgetting to attend events, meetings and appointments, losing items, forgetting to lock and put the handbrake on her car and to lock her house on leaving it, leaving household appliances switched on, experiencing dizziness, incontinence and joint pain and spending lengthy periods in bed due to fatigue/exhaustion. The EAT, which also ruled that the tribunal had erred in failing to consider her allegations of sex discrimination, remitted the case for determination of the question of disability.
Claimant: David E Grant and Patrick Tomison, instructed by Advocate
Respondent: Victoria Brown, instructed by the council
 EWCA Civ 1439,  STC 2199
Court of Appeal: Sir Julian Flaux C, Henderson and Nicola Davies LJJ,  EWCA Civ 1439,  STC 2199, 6 October 2021
The Court of Appeal considered a challenge brought by Arron Banks in respect of a finding of the Revenue and Customs Commissioners that donations of almost £1 million made by him to the UK Independence Party (“UKIP”) were ineligible to be exempted from the inheritance tax liability attaching to his estate by reason of being gifts to political parties because UKIP at the material time failed to meet the threshold established in the Inheritance Tax Act 1984 (s24) of having at least two members in the House of Commons or one member plus at least 150,000 votes in the relevant election.” The claimant sought to rely on Article 14 of the ECHR read with Article 1 of the First Protocol to the ECHR, Article 10 and/or or Article 11 (freedom of assembly) of the ECHR and/or on Articles 10 and/or 11. The Upper Tribunal had overturned a decision by the First-tier Tribunal that Mr Banks had been discriminated against on grounds of his political opinion contrary to Article 14 (though no remedy had be granted to him as it was not possible to construe s24 of the 1984 Act in a Convention-compliant manner and it was not open to the tribunal to make a declaration of incompatibility under s4 HRA). The appellant appealed on the grounds, inter alia, that the Upper Tribunal erred in law in failing to hold that s24 directly or indirectly discriminated against him on the grounds of his political opinion in breach of Article 14 taken with A1P1, also that it erred in dismissing his claim that he was discriminated against on the grounds of being a supporter of a party which did not have any MPs following the 2010 General Election, alternatively that he was a victim of discrimination against UKIP on the grounds that it had no MPs following the 2010 General Election. He also claimed that the UT had erred in concluding that any discrimination (which it had not accepted had occurred) was justified. The Court (Henderson LJ with whom the Chancellor and Davies LJ agreed) dismissed his appeal. Continue reading
Court of Appeal: Peter Jackson, Asplin and Nicola Davies LJJ,  EWCA Civ 1390,  IRLR 993, 24 September 2021
This was an appeal from the decision reported previously in this blog. The claimant was an independent fostering agency which sought to recruit (exclusively) evangelical Christian foster carers whose conduct was consistent with “traditional Biblical Christian” standards of behaviour, which did not include same-sex sex. The High Court rejected its challenge to an Ofsted report which found that its policy of accepting only heterosexual evangelical Christians as the potential carers of fostered children breached the EqA 2010 and the HRA 1998, ruling that the policy discriminated unlawfully on grounds of sexual orientation and was not saved by s193 EqA (see further below) or, because it provided services on behalf of a public authority, by para 2 of Sch 23. It required that Cornerstone alter the policy. Cornerstone was granted permission to appeal the High Court’s ruling on direct and indirect sexual orientation discrimination under the EqA and on the application of s193 EqA, though not on on the application of para 2 of Sch 23. It was also permitted to appeal the High Court’s findings that that Cornerstone had breached prospective foster carers’ Convention rights, and that Ofsted had not breached Cornerstone’s Convention rights.
The appeal was dismissed on all grounds. (Peter Jackson LJ, with whom Asplin and Nicola Davies LJJ agreed, ruled that Cornerstone’s recruitment policy involved direct sexual orientation discrimination and was disproportionate to the aims pursued, this with the effect that the statutory defence did not apply, the discrimination by Cornerstone breached foster carers’ rights under Article 14 and 8 and Ofsted had not breached cornerstone’s rights under Article 9 ECHR. Continue reading
Divisional Court: Singh LJ and Leiven J ,  EWHC 2536 (Admin), 182 BMLR 1, 23 September 2021
This was an unsuccessful challenge based on numerous human rights grounds of the fact that the Abortion Act 1967 s1(1)(d) permits abortion at a later stage of foetuses if there is “a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped”. The claimants (persons with and the mother of a person with Down’s Syndrome) argued that it was impermissible to distinguish between pregnancies where there was a substantial risk that, if born, a child would be “seriously handicapped”, and those pregnancies where the risk of such “handicap” was smaller. They sought to rely on Articles 2, 3, 8 and 14 ECHR. The first of these failed on the grounds that the ECHR had never decided that a foetus was the bearer of Convention rights and had ruled in RR v Poland (2011) 53 EHRR 1047 that the decision whether or not to continue with a pregnancy fell within the scope of Article 8. They will not be further considered here. Of more direct relevance to this blog are the Article 14 arguments which the Court considered in some detail despite having found that the discrimination in issue did not in fact fall within the scope of Article 8. Continue reading
Court of Appeal, Underhill VP, Macur and Moylan LJJ,  EWCA Civ 1353, 10 September 2021
The Court of Appeal allowed an appeal against the decision of the Upper Tribunal that the exclusion from entitlement to Bereavement Payment (“BP”) under ss 36 of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 of those whose marriages were recognised for religious purposes, and not in English law, breached Article 14 read with A1P1. There was some disagreement between the Court of Appeal judges as to the law relating to polygamy but all were agreed that the claimant was not analogously situated to someone whose religious marriage (conducted abroad) was so recognised, further that the discrimination was justified in any event, the decision of the Supreme Court in R (SC) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions having little impact in this case. Continue reading
Northern Ireland Court of Appeal: Morgan LCJ, Treacy and McClosky LJJ,  NICA 46, 3 August 2021
The applicant, who had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease, challenged a refusal to grant her enhanced rate Personal Independent Payments and assessment-free Universal Credit (“UC”) on the basis that she was terminally ill, in each case because she did not fall within the relevant legislative definitions of “suffering from a progressive disease where death in consequence of that disease can reasonably be expected within 6 months” (emphasis added). The prognosis in the applicant’s case was that her condition was terminal but the trajectory uncertain. Northern Ireland’s High Court ruled, per McAlinden J, that the exclusion of the claimant from the benefits she sought breached her Article 14 rights read with Article 8 and A1P1 and awarded her damages of £5 000 in respect of the upset, distress, annoyance, inconvenience, worry and humiliation caused by the breach. The Court of Appeal allowed the Department’s appeal, applying the decision of the Supreme Court in R (SC) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  UKSC 26,  3 WLR 428 and ruling that the discrimination was justified. Continue reading
Supreme Court,  UKSC 27,  1 WLR 3746, 9 July 2021
Lord Lloyd-Jones, Lady Arden, Lords Hamblen, Burrows and Stephens
The question for the Supreme Court was whether the exclusion of victims of human trafficking, from compensation under the 2012 iteration of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (“the CICS”) on the ground of their previous criminal convictions unjustifiably discriminated against them contrary to Articles 4 and 14 ECHR. The Court (per Lord Lloyd-Jones with whom Lady Arden and Lords Hamblen, Burrows and Stephens agreed) adopted broad approaches both to “ambit” and to “other status”. It accepted that the discrimination fell within Article 4 ECHR and that “having an unspent conviction which resulted in a custodial or community sentence is a status for the purposes of art 14”.
Because the claimants’ criminal convictions pre-dated and were unconnected with their status as victims of human trafficking the Court rejected their Thlimmenos claim that they had were entitled, by reason of being trafficked, to be treated differently from other CICS applicants with criminal convictions. The court did accept that the claimants had been discriminated against as people victims of trafficking with relevant unspent convictions, but concluded, having considered the approach of the Supreme Court in R (SC) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  UKSC 26,  3 WLR 428 (see associated blog), that such discrimination was justified. Continue reading
Supreme Court  UKSC 26,  3 WLR 428, 9 July 2021
Lord Reed P, Lord Hodge DP, Lady Black, Lords Lloyd-Jones, Kitchin, Sales and Lord Stephens
This is a very important decision of the Supreme Court concerning a challenge brought under Articles 8 and 12 ECHR, read alone and with Article 14, to the restriction of the individual element of child tax credit to an amount calculated by reference to two children. The Supreme Court rejected the challenges under Articles 8 and 12 and, of more relevance to this blog, rejected arguments about direct and indirect discrimination against children , though it accepted that there were prima facie cases of sex discrimination and of direct discrimination against children living in households with more than two children, as compared with children living in households with two or fewer children.
The challenge ultimately failed on justification grounds but the case, which has been cited extensively in virtually every Article 14 case heard by the domestic courts since it was decided, is significant because the Court revisited the “manifestly without reasonable foundation” which had been the orthodox approach to Convention challenges to economic/ social policy in the domestic courts since at least 2012. The case was also significant in that it reimposed an orthodox approach to the treatment of unincorporated international obligations (here the Convention on the Rights of the Child) and included extensive consideration of the reliance which might be placed by the courts on Parliamentary debates and other Parliamentary material when considering whether primary legislation is compatible with Convention rights.
EAT: Choudhury P, UKEAT/0220/19/LA,  IRLR 729, 22 June 2021
The EAT allowed an appeal against a tribunal’s rejection of an indirect sex discrimination claim from the claimant, a community nurse who was dismissed because she was unable to comply with a forced move to flexible working, including at weekends, because of her caring responsibilities for her three children, two of whom are disabled. The appeal, brought on multiple grounds, and succeeded on the basis that the tribunal had erred in limiting the pool for comparison to the team in which the Claimant worked, whereas it should logically have considered all community nurses across the Trust. Further, and of particular interest, Choudhury P ruled that the tribunal had erred in deciding that there was no evidence of the group disadvantage necessary for an indirect discrimination claim because it had failed to take judicial notice of the fact that women, because of their childcare responsibilities, were less likely to be able to accommodate certain working patterns than men. Continue reading
QBD Planning Court: Pepperall J,  EWHC 1650 (Admin) 17 June 2021
The claimant, a settled Romany Gypsy, unsuccessfully sought to challenge Department for Communities & Local Government planning policy issued in August 2015 which removed from the definition of “Gypsies and Travellers” those who had permanently ceased to travel by reason of health, education or old age. She also sought to challenge a decision of the inspector appointed by the Secretary of State to dismiss an appeal against the refusal of planning permission, which refusal flowed from the fact that neither Ms Smith nor any member of her family was recognised as a Gypsy under the policy. The claimant argued, inter alia, that the planning definition in the 2015 policy unlawfully discriminated against elderly and disabled Gypsies, relying both on the ECHR and the EqA. Pepperall J accepted that the policy impacted disparately on the elderly and disabled Gypsies, and acknowledged the extreme disadvantage experienced by Gypsies and Travellers in this and other contexts. He ruled, however, that the policy was justified taking into account the provision made by the planning system as a whole for the “particular needs of Gypsies and Travellers who have retired from travelling”. Continue reading