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Employment Law Case Update: Page v NHS Trust Development Authority

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Mr Page was a lay magistrate and also a non-executive director (NED) of the Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership NHS Trust. In July 2014, Mr Page, with two other magistrates, considered an adoption application by a same-sex couple. While his colleagues granted the application, Mr Page strongly opposed it.  As a devout Christian he stated it was ‘not normal’ - and it was always in the child’s best interests to be raised by a mother and a father.

His fellow magistrates and the clerk of the court complained about Mr Page after the case. The Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice reprimanded Mr Page for allowing his religious beliefs, and not the evidence, to influence him - amounting to serious misconduct. 

Soon after, Mr Page gave interviews to local and national media, challenging the reprimand and re-stating his view.  At least one of the interviews made a connection with Mr Page’s NHS role.

Mr Page was advised by the Trust’s chairman that expressing these views could potentially have an adverse impact on the Trust’s stakeholders and undermine confidence in the Trust’s commitment to equality for LGBT people. Further, Mr Page was told that his failure to keep the Trust informed of his actions was unacceptable. 

 Although acknowledging it was an error on his part not to inform the Trust in advance, Mr Page was unapologetic about publicising his views.  He continued to engage with the media without informing the Trust, leading to further disciplinary action by the Lord Chancellor who removed him from the magistracy for serious misconduct.  The following day Mr Page appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, an action the Trust was again not aware of until after the interview. Here he repeated his views on same-sex adoption, adding that he was also against same-sex marriage and considered homosexual activity to be wrong.

The Trust referred Mr Page to the NHS Trust Development Authority, the body responsible for the appointment of NEDs. They ruled it was not in the interests of the health service for Mr Page to continue to serve as an NED in the NHS.

Mr Page issued tribunal proceedings, claiming direct and indirect religious discrimination, harassment related to religion and victimisation. The tribunal dismissed all his claims for various reasons, including his disregard of the Trust’s requests to notify in advance of interviews and lack of evidence to support the claims. 

Mr Page has indicated he intends to appeal and also has separate discrimination proceedings pending against the Lord Chancellor in respect of his removal from the magistracy. 

The case raises a discussion regarding the extent an employer can censor the expression of religious or philosophical beliefs outside the workplace - but acts as reassurance for employers that they can take action. Depending on the nature of the case, this could include dismissal where the statements warrant it. Even if statements are an expression of religious or philosophical belief, this may not be enough to protect an employee - even a director - from action being taken.

This article is from our weekly Employment Law Newsletter published on 25/01/2018.  If you would like to receive this newsletter directly and be kept up to date with recent cases and Employment Law news, email events@warnergoodman.co.uk.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.