Supreme Court decides for PCS in indirect discrimination case
CIVIL servants won a landmark victory in the Supreme Court yesterday over indirect discrimination — and the ruling could benefit all British workers who face discrimination.
The court — Britain’s highest judicial body — ruled that workers do not have to prove how and why they were discriminated against.
The case began in 2012 and was brought by the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) on behalf of a group of 49 black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BME) civil servants who brought claims of indirect race and age discrimination against the Home Office.
Solicitors Thompsons, acting for the union, said the case was based on an exam — the core skills assessment (CSA) — which civil servants have to pass if they want to be promoted to certain higher grades.
The union argued that younger and white candidates were more likely to pass the exam than candidates from a BME background.
The Home Office admitted that white and younger candidates had a higher selection rate than BME and older candidates.
In June 2013 an employment tribunal ruled that the claimants needed to demonstrate both the reason for the lower pass rate and prove that the reason explained their own failure to pass the CSA.
But Supreme Court judges ruled unanimously that it is “not necessary [for the workers] to establish the reason for the particular disadvantage.”
The ruling overturned the original decisions at the tribunal and the Court of Appeal.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This is a major win, not just for this group of civil servants but for workers challenging discrimination in the workplace.
“We knew these procedures were flawed and the Home Office can no longer deny the fact that staff shouldn’t have to prove how and why they are being discriminated against.”
Thompsons employment rights solicitor Kate Lea said: “Indirect discrimination aims to achieve equality of results. It deals with hidden forms of discrimination which are not easily identified. This decision will help workers challenge disguised discrimination in the workplace.”
The union’s case was supported by the Equality & Human Rights Commission.