Currently, caste is not technically one of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. The Government has been looking to reform the Equality Act 2010 in recent years to potentially add caste as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
However, it has been argued amongst those in the legal professions that it falls within the definition of race in the Act, although the point had not been tested in the Employment Tribunals, until now. In the case of Tirkey v Chandok ET/3400174/13, an Employment Tribunal has supported the view that caste discrimination should fall within the definition of ‘race’ as set out in the Act.
Ms Tirkey was employed by the Chandok family for four years in a domestic help role. Ms Tirkey was of the Adivasi people, which are known as a servant caste among those of the Hindu religion. Ms Tirkey claimed she was overworked and underpaid, and that she was treated in this manner because of her caste. Ms Tirkey raised various claims against her employer, including a claim of caste discrimination. Her employer’s sought to have this claim struck out.
The Employment Tribunal allowed the caste discrimination claim to proceed. The Employment Tribunal judge decided that caste was already a part of the race protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010 because ethnic origin could include discrimination on the grounds of descent or lineage. The judge concluded that the definition of race could and should be construed in such a way as to include caste. The case will now proceed to a full hearing.
As the decision is from an Employment Tribunal, it is not technically binding on other Tribunals and Courts. However, it seems highly likely that caste will be a recognised protected characteristic going forwards, even though the law has not been amended by the Government as yet to ensure caste is covered.
Interestingly, this case is not the first case to be brought alleging caste discrimination. We reported on the first case back in 2011 (please see our article here), but that case still remains undecided because of some complications.
If you would like to talk through a situation you are dealing with, or if you need advice on any aspect of employment law, please contact any member of the Pure Employment Law team (01243 836840 or [email protected]).