What is Religious Discrimination at Work?

Author:
David Jones
Employment Law Associate Solicitor
Date:
20/01/2020

Under the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful to discriminate against someone in a workplace because of a religion or religious belief, or for their lack of religion or religious belief.

Religion and religious belief is one of the nine Protected Characteristics. Sadly, many people experience religious discrimination at work on a daily basis and it should not be tolerated.

Our Employment Law Solicitors offer initial legal advice and can help you understand if you have a claim for Religious Discrimination at Work. Following an initial assessment, we may be able to deal with your case on a No Win, No Fee basis - so ask us for details.

Call us on 08002605010 or request a callback and we will help you.

Who is Protected from Religious Discrimination in the Workplace?

All members of staff are protected by the Equality Act 2010, regardless of:

  • Their own religion, belief, or non-belief, including smaller religions and sects
  • Their employer’s religion, belief or non-belief
  • Whether they’re already employed or applying for a job.

Sometimes people can be discriminated against because it is perceived that they are of a particular religion, when in fact they aren’t. This is known as Discrimination by Perception. It could occur in the workplace if a member of staff refuses to work alongside someone because they think that person is of a particular religion.

Types of Religious or Belief Discrimination at Work

It is a sad reality that people experience any form of Discrimination at Work, and no less so when it’s because of religion or religious beliefs. Four main types of religious or belief discrimination exist in the workplace. They are:

  • Direct Discrimination – This occurs when, because of their religion or belief, a person is treated less favourably than someone who does not share that religion or belief, for example, dismissing an employee because of their religion where there is evidence that another employee who did not share that belief would not have been dismissed.
  • Indirect Discrimination – This can occur if a policy or procedure at work that appears neutral on the surface leaves someone at a disadvantage due to their religion or religious beliefs. For example, requiring a dress code that excludes people who wear items of clothing as part of their faith.
  • Harassment – This occurs when someone is subjected to hostile, degrading, or humiliating treatment related to their religion or religious belief. For example, cruel religious jokes or intolerance towards religious customs.
  • Victimisation – You might have witnessed someone else being discriminated against, and felt the need to complain about it. This may then lead to you being treated unfairly because you took action, which counts as victimisation. 

Discrimination for Non-Religious Beliefs

Under the Equality Act 2010, people are also protected for non-religious beliefs such as Ethical Veganism and even for not having a belief – otherwise known as Atheism.

Philosophical beliefs are also protected and can include things like Pacifism. The same goes for political beliefs, such as Communism and also scientific beliefs such as Darwinism.

A philosophical belief must meet certain conditions to fall under the Equality Act 2010. It must be a genuinely held belief, be a substantial aspect of human life, be worthy of respect in a democratic society, have a level cogency or seriousness, and not conflict with the fundamental rights of other people.

You can make a claim against your employer for any of these types of discrimination in the workplace.

Where Religious Discrimination Can Occur in the Workplace

There are four common areas where religious discrimination might occur in the workplace:

Recruitment – Discrimination can take place at any time during the hiring process, from working out what is required of the applicant, through to advertising the job role, holding interviews, allocating job duties and in offering the role.

Taking Time Off for Religious Reasons – Employers don’t have to give staff time off for religious holidays, but all requests should be carefully considered and employers must show flexibility in this regard. Many employees fast during religious holidays or need an area where they can pray. Refusing these requests without a good business reason could amount to discrimination.

Dress Code – Some employees wish to dress a certain way because of their religion or belief. Employers should consult staff, as well as any recognised trade unions and allow their input and support. Some employees may wish to avoid wearing certain items of clothing, or certain sizes or cuts of clothing because it would conflict with standards of dress related to their religion.

Job Duties – There are some jobs that an applicant or an employee would wish to opt-out of if certain duties conflicted with their religion or belief. An example of this could be handling meat or serving alcohol.

Lawful Religious Discrimination

Sometimes there are job roles which require a person to be of a particular religion and it is permitted for employers to treat people differently in this regard. This is known as a Genuine Occupational Requirement.

Faith schools can fall into this category as they may employ teachers that are predominantly of a certain religion.

Some employers will be taking positive action to employ more people of certain religions or beliefs because they are underrepresented in that particular workforce.

How You Can Make a Claim

If you feel you’ve been discriminated against because of your religion or belief, or if you have reported incidents to your employer and they have not taken action, then you should contact our Employment Law Solicitors for free initial legal advice as soon as possible. 

Religious or belief discrimination is against the law and should not be tolerated in the workplace. You can take action against your employer if you feel you are being discriminated against.

In employment law claims, you have three months to make a claim from the date of the act of discrimination and so it is important to obtain advice without delay.

Our Employment Solicitors can help you to understand if you have a claim, and explore all the options available to you. Once we have assessed your case we may be able to deal with your case on a No Win, No Fee basis - just ask us for details.

For an initial Consultation call our Employment Solicitors

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