There have been some well-reported cases over the years, which have wrestled with the question of what happens when an employee is accused of having shared their religious beliefs a little too enthusiastically in the workplace. The issue remains controversial. So the Court of Appeal’s decision in the recent case of Kuteh v Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust provides us with some useful additional guidance.
Ms Kuteh, a nurse, was disciplined and dismissed after she made a habit of speaking with patients about their religious beliefs; she said prayers for them and, on one occasion, asked a patient to join her in singing a psalm. Ms K continued this course of conduct, even after she had been spoken to by management and had agreed to stop.
Ms K’s claim for unfair dismissal failed at both the Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal stage. However, Ms K took her case to the Court of Appeal, arguing that her human right to freedom of religion had not been properly taken into account. The Court of Appeal disagreed, forming the view that Ms K had acted inappropriately and the decision to dismiss her was reasonable.
This case reminds us that even though our human rights are very important, they are not without their limitations. In particular, when our rights rub up against our responsibilities and obligations, the outcome can be very uncertain.
If you are grappling with a difficult issue of this nature, please get in touch. We’d be happy to help.