UNISON wins ‘landmark’ legal case against barring employees from standing for election
UNISON has won a case at the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) on behalf of a woman who was dismissed by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) after she told her former boss she wanted to stand for election to the UK Parliament.
UNISON said the case of Polly Jones may open the door to other employees such as civil servants and council officials who may want to stand for election but whose contracts currently bar them from doing so.
The EAT made a key ruling that ‘participation in democracy’ is a philosophical belief, which is protected under equality legislation.
Ms Jones has decided to speak out publicly in a bid to highlight workplace barriers which can face people who hope to become MPs or MSPs and, hopefully encourage under-represented groups to get involved in politics.
She said: “I am delighted my case has wider implications. It protects us all from employers that want to restrict broader political activity outside work whether that’s campaigning, or simply being involved in a political party.
“Three tribunal appearances and three long years later, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has determined that my belief in participatory democracy was protected by equality laws. I am grateful to UNISON and Thompsons Solicitors who provided me with the means to challenge an injustice.
“It was a horrific experience and I felt it was deeply unfair. As it was a pretty normal thing to want to do in the kind of organisations I work for. I thought it would all be fine, I hadn’t done anything wrong. My advice is to join a union. You never know when you will need it.”
Ms Jones has donated her full settlement amount to three organisations: UNISON’s There for You welfare charity, Living Rent Scotland’s tenants’ union, and Refuweegee a community-led charity which gives a warm welcome to people forced to flee their homes.
Karen Osborne, UNISON Scotland’s legal officer said: “UNISON want to thank Polly for sticking with us.
“Polly’s case means that if a worker is dismissed or suffers a detriment because they have requested permission to stand for election, or in some other way demonstrated their belief in participatory democracy, they can bring a discrimination claim under the Equality Act as this belief is now a protected belief.”
Helen Forsyth, chair of SFHA, said: “We entirely refute the allegations made by our former employee. We chose to settle this case in the interests of making best use of our resources: at a time when our members are facing increasingly serious challenges, it is vital that we are fully focused on supporting them in every way we can.”