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Is caste protected by the Equality Act 2010?

Avid followers of employment law will be aware that under the Equality Act 2010 (EQA) the Secretary of State retains power to make ‘caste’ a protected characteristic for discrimination purposes. However, the government has made it clear that it will not exercise this power until there has been wider public consultation.

That having been said, quite interestingly earlier this year the employment tribunal in Tirkey –v- Mr & Mrs Chandok held that that ‘caste’ was already protected under the concept of ‘race’ (which includes ethnic group). The claimant in this case was of Indian nationality and also a descendant of the Adivasi people, who the tribunal were told could be either Christian or Hindu; the claimant was a Christian. Further, the tribunal was told that the Adivasi are a people of darker skin and limited means, and are generally regarded as a servant class.

The claimant argued (amongst other things) that the respondents had discriminated against her when she worked with them on the basis of her caste. The discriminatory behaviour included separate living facilities and a restriction on social interaction.

The case involved a detailed look into the South Asian culture and caste system before the tribunal Judge held caste was protected under the EQA. So unless the case is appealed and the EAT disagree with the tribunal’s decision, it is safer for employers to assume that allegations of ‘caste’ discrimination should be properly investigated on the same footing as discrimination on the basis of the wider parent category of ‘race’.

Please note: there was an update in respect of this claim on 7 October 2015 titled “Caste Discrimination: EAT Confirms Earlier Decision.

If you are currently dealing with an issue relating to caste discrimination please do not hesitate to contact me for a free consultation on 0113 350 4030 or at samira.cakali@scesolicitors.co.uk.   

Samira Cakali

Samira Cakali is a pragmatic and approachable solicitor advocate with extensive contentious and non-contentious experience in the fields of employment law as well as civil litigation, within a range of commercial businesses from SME’s to multinationals as well as senior executives.

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