Can an employee be dismissed for being a member of an extreme political party, for example the BNP?
For a dismissal to be fair, the employer has to show that there was a potentially fair reason for the dismissal and that it acted reasonably in dismissing the employee for that reason. Membership of a particular party is unlikely to be a fair reason on its own, but, depending on the circumstances, it could result in a fair dismissal by reason of the employee's conduct or for "some other substantial reason".
Employees do not need the normal minimum qualifying service to be able to claim unfair dismissal where the reason for their dismissal is their political opinions or affiliation. Employers should be cautious in dismissing employees in these circumstances, regardless of their length of service, and should ensure that the employee's membership of a political party is not the sole reason for the dismissal.
If the employee's membership has an adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out the job, or on the employer's reputation, for example if there is a hostile reaction from customers to the employee leading to a boycott of the employer's services, a dismissal could potentially be fair for "some other substantial reason".
If an employee is actively campaigning for an extreme political party at work, or expressing political views that create an intimidating or hostile environment for colleagues, this conduct (rather than the fact of his or her membership of the party) could amount to a fair reason for dismissal.
Employers may be concerned about the dismissal of a member of an extreme political party resulting in a claim for religion or belief discrimination. Support for a political party is unlikely to amount to a "belief" under the Equality Act 2010. However, a belief based on a political philosophy could potentially be covered by the legislation (Grainger plc v Nicholson  IRLR 4 EAT). There is therefore potential for an employee to argue that his or her belief, rather than membership of the party itself, was the reason for the dismissal. As long as the employer can show that the employee was dismissed because of the effect of his or her belief, eg his or her conduct, or damage to the employer's reputation, the dismissal is unlikely to be discriminatory. Further, the Employment Appeal Tribunal has held that to be protected under the legislation a belief must be "worthy of respect in a democratic society" (McClintock v Department of Constitutional Affairs  IRLR 29 EAT). This is likely to rule out protection of a political belief based on, for example, racism.