Gillian Philip – fighting for rights for authors

by Free Speech Union

Gillian Philip – fighting for rights for authors

by Free Speech Union
Free Speech Union
Case Owner
The Free Speech Union is a non-partisan, mass membership public interest body that stands up for the speech rights of its members and campaigns for free speech more widely.
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Gillian Philip continues to fight for a woman’s right to state biological facts without fear of losing her job.

As you may know, Gillian brought an Employment Tribunal claim against publishers Working Partners and HarperCollins. Gillian argues that she was unlawfully discriminated against when her contract to write children’s books was terminated because of her gender-critical beliefs. Sex is biological and immutable and distinct from gender-identity.

A preliminary hearing was held to determine whether Gillian’s claim had been filed in time and whether she had rights under the Equality Act 2010 as a worker or employee of Working Partners. Legal representation was funded by a previous CrowdJustice campaign, and due to supporters’ generosity Gillian had top-drawer representation – Shah Qureshi of Irwin Mitchell solicitors and barrister David Mitchell. The judgement can be found here.

The judge at the Employment Tribunal described Gillian’s situation as close to unique. Gillian won on the trickiest aspect of her case, delay in bringing a claim. The judge found that it was just and equitable to allow her case to be pleaded after the time limit because in the immediate aftermath of her sacking by Working Partners she was depressed following the death of her husband. This depression was exacerbated by the way in which Gillian was treated by Working Partners / HarperCollins. Incredibly, even in the witness box, Working Partners Managing Director Chris Snowdon continued to insist that the death of Gillian’s husband should have made no difference to her and her children.

However, although Gillian won on the time question, she lost on the worker status question and so she now seeks to appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal. She has a good chance of success because the Tribunal judge conceded he did not have all the necessary evidence before him to make his decision on worker status. The reason for the lack of evidence was the deliberate refusal of Working Partners to supply documents ordered by the judge previously.

Gillian’s situation is thus eminently appealable.

The point to be argued at appeal  is whether Gillian was a “worker” controlled by Working Partners. Gillian has no doubt she has already shown she had little discretion and worked under a strict creative regime entirely controlled by Working Partners under commission from HarperCollins.

But, while the appeal is ostensibly on this narrow point of law about “control”, the issues at stake here are anything but narrow – this concerns the protection of thousands of precariously employed people who make their living through creative expression, especially women who believe in the reality of biological sex. Without employee or worker status, contract writers are not protected under the Equality Act 2010 and so can have their contracts abruptly terminated for their beliefs.  Gillian was victimised in precisely this way. Unless Gillian appeals, and wins, unscrupulous employers will continue to get away with arrangements intended to side-step Equality Act protections by designating a freelancer as ‘independent’, giving such employers the power to silence writers.

It is in the interests of everyone that authors – people like Gillian who entertain and inspire us – enjoy the legal protections they need to express themselves freely and securely. This is especially important because the publishing industry is beset by growing close-mindedness. Gillian is not the only writer to suffer for expressing gender critical beliefs. Behind high-profile cases, such as Kate Clanchy, Julie Burchill and Jenny Lindsay, is a culture of intolerance in which contract-writers and editors can be stripped of their livelihood for having the wrong opinion. They tend to be women.

In launching her appeal, Gillian will once again need your help. Gillian and the Free Speech Union are particularly keen to hear from ghost writers and journalists on stringer contracts about how they are controlled by their publishers, since that might be helpful in this case. This appeal could be of ground-breaking importance in the publishing industry, determining not only the freedom of speech rights for contract writers, but also pay and conditions. If Uber drivers can break free, so can authors. Please join the fight.

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