If BIS decides to terminate Maria’s contract, then it is likely that she will commence proceeding against BIS for unfair dismissal, pursuant to section 94(1) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (as amended).
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It is likely that the primary basis for her claim will be that her right to freedom of religion, under Article 9 of the Human Rights Act 1998, has been infringed by her employer’s decision to dismiss her for wearing her religious head veil. Article 9(1) of this Act provides that, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.” (Art. 9(1) HRA 1998) Maria will likely argue that in wearing a veil she is publically manifesting her religion in practice and observance. She may even try to rely upon the recent House of Lords decision in the case of R (Begum) v Governors of Denbigh High School  UKHL 15 to support this argument. By virtue of section 98(1) of the Employment Rights Act 1996, the burden of proof will rest upon BIS to satisfy the Tribunal, on the balance of probabilities, that the dismissal was not unfair. Maria may also argue that BIS has unlawfully discriminated against her on grounds of her religion and belief, in accordance with regulation 3 of the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003. Her argument would likely be that, in dismissing her, BIS treated her “less favourably than [it] treats or would treat other persons.” (Reg. 3(1)(a) EE(RoB)R 2003) There are several aspects to this claim which present opportunities for BIS to mount a successful defence to these claims: The first argument that BIS might make is that the dismissal in question was not unfair, because the reason for her dismissal “relates to [her] capability… for performing work of the kind which [she] was employed by BIS to do.” (s.98(2)(a) ERA 1996) There is clear evidence here that Maria could not continue as receptionist, because BIS’s customers refused to have any further dealings with her, due to her insistence on covering her face with a religious veil. BIS can argue that Maria’s rights under Article 9(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998 are not absolute because they are qualified by Article 9(2) of that same Act,
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