A government-funded report into cases brought to employment tribunals under the sexual orientation and religion or belief protections introduced in December 2003 has highlighted the need for employers to apply equal opportunities policies.

The TUC was funded by the now abolished DTI to carry out a project studying all cases concerning the regulations, and to prepare a report of the conclusions of that study.

The work involved analysing published employment tribunal decisions and any relevant higher court judgments, as well as liaising with ACAS, the Employment Tribunal Service and other sources to obtain additional information about cases that have been withdrawn, settled or otherwise disposed of.

The report notes that there have not yet been any decisions on indirect sexual orientation discrimination or harassment on grounds of religion or belief.

It concludes that most sexual orientation cases have arisen from instances of crude harassment while, after some cases testing the limits of the definition of religion or belief, most religion cases have related to means of religious adherence, which tribunals have dealt with as complaints of indirect discrimination.

Arpita Dutt, an employment lawyer and partner at Russell, Jones and Walker, told PinkNews.co.uk:

“At RJW, we have seen examples of the type of crude harassment cases that the report suggests is prevalent amongst the sexual orientation discrimination claims that have been taken to the tribunal.

“Cases of this sort are increasingly less common in other areas of discrimination law, such as sex and race than when the legislation was first introduced outlawing such conduct in those cases.

“We hope that this report emphasises to the tribunals how very important it is to take tough line on such offensive behaviour, and to send out clear signals that it simply will not be tolerated.”

The TUC report contains many examples of the way tribunals have applied the regulations and highlight the need for employers to have, and apply, equal opportunities and disciplinary policies.

See the report here.