Working Theory

by Michael Reed


I do employment law for the Free Representation Unit.


michael at


Mba — Failing a sanity check

11 January 2013

The reporting of Mba v London Borough of Merton by the Telegraph is coming in for a good deal of critism. See:

Adam and Darren cover in detail what was wrong with the Telegraph’s article. Joshua is more sympathetic, highlighting the difficulties that a reporter is likely to face reporting an oral judgment when they weren’t in court.

I have just one additional point, which I don’t think has been made in quite this way. Regardless of the circumstances of the reporting, the content of the story should have raised concerns at some point before it went out.

Under the headling ‘Christians have no right to refuse to work on Sundays, rules judge’ The Telegraph reported that:

This, to anyone who knows anything at all about the relevant law, sounds desperately implausible. As Darren points out, requiring that employees work on their Sabbath is obviously a potential act of indirect religious discrimination that would need to be justified. It’s phenominally unlikely that, in dealing with such an issue, any EAT Judge would start making blanket statements that the rule was the same for all Christians or decide the case based on what he thought were the core components of Chritianity. It just doesn’t make any sense.

At some point, before the story ran, someone should have said ‘Hang on a second, this doesn’t sound right’. At that point further consideration, by, for example, looking at the tribunal’s decision and the parties’ skeleton arguments, would have suggested that it was increasingly unlikely that the President of the EAT had said what the Telegraph thought he’d said. At that point the story could have been delayed until the written judgment was handed down. The article ran two weeks after the oral judgment; it was not breaking news.

And if the Telegraph doesn’t have the expertise to do this sort of sanity check, perhaps they need to run similar stories past someone who does.

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