Gender critical beliefs

There is little that is more divisive or open to misinterpretation at the moment than gender critical beliefs. The tension between these beliefs and how they might be expressed has been the subject of a recent Employment Tribunal (ET) case. The case was high profile because the employer was the Open University (OU).

The ET considered a number of claims against the OU (including discrimination and harassment) from a Professor who stated her gender critical beliefs. The Claimant was employed as a Professor by the OU from 1 August 2016 until her resignation on 2 December 2021. The Claimant said she was subjected to harassment and direct discrimination on the grounds of those beliefs. The Claimant said that the failure of the OU to support and protect her from discrimination and harassment was the reason she resigned from her employment. She claimed to have been constructively dismissed as a result. Even after the Claimant's employment ended, the Claimant said she was subjected to continuing harassment or direct discrimination and/or victimisation. The OU said that it did all that could be reasonably expected of it in respect of its responsibilities to the Claimant and acted in accordance with its obligation to uphold academic freedom

The ET found that the Claimant was subjected to a targeted campaign of harassment following the launch by the Claimant and her colleagues of the gender critical research network at the OU. The gender critical research network is a network of academics researching their chosen area of specialism from a gender critical perspective.

The ET was satisfied that the Claimant's gender critical belief is a protected philosophical belief worthy of protection in a democratic society.

This is a controversial topic and one which all employers should consider carefully.

To discuss this or any other employment matter, contact us.

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