Employment e-Brief – Isn’t Halloween just for fun?

Wednesday 5th November 2014

My children love Halloween so much I book the day off work to spend it with them. It joins an exclusive list of family events which includes Christmas, Easter and birthdays.

They prepare (in the days leading up to it) by:

  • Putting up decorations;
  • Making pictures of ghosts, pumpkins, spiders and witches (which are stuck up around the house);
  • Carving pumpkins (which are lit and placed on the doorstep); and
  • Making a Lego haunted house (which is placed on our window sill).

They then have a party for their friends on 31 Oct with games including:

  • Apple bobbing;
  • Munching bats (sweets hanging from the ceiling);
  • A monster treasure hunt; and
  • ‘Dress the mummy’ (where a poor volunteer gets wrapped in toilet paper by the kids).

The evening ends by going trick or treating around our street. Just our street – etiquette wouldn’t allow anything wider. Neighbours either put out a pumpkin to invite visitors in or keep their gates closed and lights out to tell you to stay away.

For us, it’s all done as a bit of family fun. But just because that is how we view (and celebrate) Halloween doesn’t mean everyone views it the same way.

In 2013 a Tribunal found in the case of Holland v Angel Supermarket Ltd & Anor that a “Wiccan” who claimed that she was mocked and later dismissed after switching her shifts to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve was discriminated against because of her beliefs.

Also, in Greater Manchester Police Authority v Power the Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld a Tribunal’s decision that a belief in spiritualism, life after death and the ability of mediums to contact the dead was capable of amounting to either a religious belief or a philosophical belief.

It is worth remembering that the Equality Act 2010 protects anyone from being discriminated against because of their religion or belief. Caselaw shows that:

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

Over the years the Courts have also held that the following were all beliefs requiring protection:

  • a belief in the sanctity of life, extending to a fervent anti-fox hunting and anti-hare coursing;
  • a belief that public service and the need to engender in others a desire and commitment to serve the community for the common good;
  • a belief that it is wrong to lie under any circumstances;
  • a  belief that mankind is heading towards catastrophic climate change and therefore we are under a moral duty to lead our lives in a manner which mitigates or avoids this catastrophe for the benefit of future generations, and to persuade others to do the same; and
  • a belief in the “higher purpose” of public service broadcasting, to encourage debate and citizenship in a public space.

The moral is this – it isn’t always clear which beliefs are protected. If you would like to discuss then please contact a member of our employment team.