In January we listed some of the things to expect from Employment Law in 2018. One of those things was the possibility of caste becoming a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
Caste is a type of social stratification where people are defined by their perceived hereditary class. Caste has taken various forms all over the world but in the UK caste issues largely stem from residents with South Asian origin or heritage.
In terms of Employment Law, caste as a protected characteristic was considered in the case of Chandhok v Tirkey where a domestic worker alleged she was mistreated due to her caste. In that case caste wasn’t held to be a protected characteristic itself but could form part of race discrimination under the ethnic origin wording of Section 9(1)c of the Equality Act 2010.
There was a Government consultation on the issue and it has concluded that caste will not be added to the list of protected characteristics. The response suggests drafting a legal definition for caste that cannot be confused with the socio-economic class as one of the key issues of implementing caste as a protected characteristic.
However, as per Chandhok v Tirkey, this doesn’t mean someone cannot be discriminated against because of caste as it can be an ethnic origin under Section 9(1)c. Whilst a new claim for victims of caste discrimination has not been introduced they still are protected from race discrimination.