Summary: Can caste be covered by the existing definition of race discrimination?
Yes says the EAT in Chandhok and another v Tirkey available here.
Facts: Ms Tirkey was a domestic worker for Mr and Mrs Chandhok for four years until 2012. Her inherited caste is the Adivasi, which is recognised in Indian culture as the ‘servant caste’. Ms Tirkey brought Tribunal claims against the Chandhoks including unfair dismissal, unlawful deduction from wages and race discrimination. There was also a complaint of caste discrimination, in that Ms Tirkey was subject to less favourable treatment because of her perceived lower status. The Chandhoks applied to strike out the claim of caste discrimination on the basis that ‘caste’ does not presently fall within the definition of ‘race’ in the Equality Act 2010.
The EAT held that although caste is not yet explicitly mentioned in the Act, it does fall under the ‘ethnic or national origins’ wording as it has a wide and flexible scope, covering questions of descent. Therefore the treatment complained of by an Indian domestic worker could in principle come within the scope of less favourable treatment because of the employee’s ethnic origins and, as such, could amount to race discrimination.
Implications: The Equality Act 2010 is due to be amended to provide specifically for caste to be an aspect of race. However, the Government’s promised consultation on this is now overdue. In the meantime this is a useful decision that caste can amount to an aspect of race.