Although it is unlawful to discriminate against a worker because of their religious beliefs, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held in Page v NHS Trust Development Authority that it is not discriminatory to dismiss them because of the “manner” in which they express those religious views as opposed to the fact that they hold them.

Basic facts

Mr Page, a practising Christian, was a non-executive director (NED) for the Trust and a magistrate sitting on family cases involving adoption decisions. When it became apparent that he was opposed to same-sex couples adopting a child, he was subject by the magistracy to disciplinary action. He then contacted the media about the action taken against him without telling the Trust.

When the Trust found out, it asked him to stop making his views known in a public forum. Although he refused to give that assurance, he accepted that he should tell the Trust about any future contact with the media.

However, he failed to do so and after being removed from the magistracy (resulting in more media attention in which he repeated his views about same sex couples), the Trust terminated his appointment as an NED.  Mr Page brought claims of direct and indirect discrimination on the basis of religious belief as well as victimisation.  

Tribunal decision

Dismissing his claims, the tribunal held that Mr Page’s appointment was not terminated because of his religion or because he held or expressed certain views. Instead it was because of the “manner” in which he expressed those beliefs.

Mr Page appealed on a number of grounds, as follows:

  1. That the tribunal should have identified an appropriate comparator (someone who also gave interviews but spoke in favour of same-sex adoptions) with regard to his direct discrimination claim
  2. That the tribunal was wrong to require him to satisfy a test of group disadvantage when deciding his complaint of indirect discrimination
  3. That the tribunal was wrong in the way that it analysed his victimisation claim as the manner in which he made the statement could not be separated from the “protected acts” of actually making the statements.

EAT decision

The EAT, however, dismissed the appeal holding that the tribunal was correct to find that his appointment had been terminated because of the “manner” in which he had expressed his beliefs rather than because of the beliefs themselves. This included the fact that he had been in contact with the media without telling the Trust and had done so in the knowledge that his conduct might have an adverse effect on the Trust’s ability to engage with sections of the community in its catchment area.

With regard to a comparator, the EAT held that it was not necessary to construct a hypothetical one where the tribunal has made express findings of non-discriminatory reasons for the treatment alleged, as in this case.

Secondly, case law has established that claimants have to show group disadvantage in indirect discrimination claims. As there was not enough evidence to show group disadvantage in this case, that part of his appeal was bound to fail.

Finally, with regard to his claim of victimisation, it was clear that there had been protected acts – Mr Page’s complaints about his suspension and removal from the magistracy and the non-renewal of his appointment as an NED being discriminatory. However, the Trust had taken action because of his failure to follow its instructions and the failure to consider the potential impact of his remarks on vulnerable sections of the public. These reasons could be separated from the allegations of discrimination which he was bringing against the Trust and the Lord Chancellor.


Although Mr Page argued that the non-renewal of his appointment was discrimination because of his religious beliefs, it is in fact broadly similar to a much more straightforward conduct dismissal.

As part of his role he was expected not to discriminate because of sexual orientation. The tribunal, then the EAT, found that he was dismissed because he expressed discriminatory views on television and in the press when he had been instructed by his employer not to do so.