An evangelical Christian relationship counsellor who refused to offer therapy
to gay couples has lost his unfair dismissal appeal.
Gary McFarlane, 47, from Bristol, worked for the publicly-funded national
counselling service Relate and was sacked last year after he said he could
not do anything to promote gay sex and “encourage sin.”
After being fired, Mr. McFarlane lodged a claim for unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal, and religious discrimination against Relate for failing to accommodate his faith
or allow him to try to overcome his reservations.
Relate admitted wrongful dismissal for failing to provide a
proper notice period. But the employment tribunal rejected Mr. McFarlane’s
claims of unfair dismissal and religious discrimination. Mr. McFarlane then appealed
to an Employment Appeals Tribunal.
Responding to the decision, Relate chief executive Claire Tyler said:
“The appeal judgement validates Relate‘s commitment to equality of access to our services.
“Relate‘s trusted service, both in Avon and across the country,
relies on making sure that all members of society, regardless of their gender, age, race, religion, sexual orientation or relationship status, are able to
access respectful and professional counselling and sex therapy.
“However, our primary consideration is to our clients who often need complex
advice and assistance.
“We cannot allow anything to damage our clients, or to undermine the
principle of trust that underpins our work.”
What is wrongful dismissal?
Certain terms are automatically imposed into our employment contracts by
operation of law. For example, the duty to to comply with statutory
disciplinary or grievance procedures. Where an employer breaches these terms,
it may be liable for wrongful dismissal.
An employer may only dismiss an employee without notice – summary
dismissal – if the employee commits a serious breach of the
contract, for example assaulting a colleague.
It is worth noting that dismissal can be both wrongful and unfair: for wrongful dismissal, however, there is no
service qualification period for making a claim (unlike unfair dismissal). Note also, that any money received
for unfair dismissal will usually be cancelled out by the
amount received for wrongful dismissal, and vice versa, to stop the
employee receiving double compensation.
Additional Information & Advice
Depending on the circumstances of your case, however, it may be better to
speak with a solicitor who specialises in employment law. You can be matched with a solicitor in your area for free via solicitor
matching services, which can also help you to understand the best course of
action for your situation and whether you are ready to hire a solicitor.
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