Is football a belief system?

Is football a belief system?

With the World Cup about to start, it’s worth remembering that – for some – football isn’t just a game.

It’s a way of life.

And as an employer that can present a bit of a problem, with staff claiming that it’s discrimination for you not to allow them to take a break during working time to watch the matches.

(Or you might find that a very important, 90-minute Zoom call just happens to coincide with a particularly important fixture.)

So, let’s examine the claim and look at a precedent…

Edward McClung (let’s call him Eddie) decided to take the passion for football to a new level.

Eddie had been working for a company and when his contract was not extended, he filed an employment tribunal claim.

Why? Because he believed his boss, a Celtic supporter, did not offer him further employment because he supported the rival team.

(He also alleged that a fellow employee told him he was “unusually okay for a Rangers fan”.)

If you’re not a football fan (like me), it’s worth knowing that – traditionally – Rangers fans were mainly Protestant, and Celtic fans Catholic, which gave Eddie another angle.

He claimed discrimination on the grounds of religious belief (Protestant vs Catholic) and philosophical (football).

He also claimed unfair dismissal, even though he’d only worked for the company for less than six months (you are only protected after two years’ service) and was a self-employed contractor!

Eddie gave a detailed account of his passion for football to the tribunal, but ultimately was unable to persuade the judge that being a football fan was a belief system.

Therefore, he wasn’t protected by the Equality Act 2010 and the fact that his self-employed contract was not extended was absolutely legal.

It’s my earnest hope that the World Cup doesn’t throw up any issues for you, however far we get, but if you need some help or pointers regarding your approach to time off for matches, just let me know.

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