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Workplace discrimination

From 2 December 2003, when the Employment Equality regulations came into force, it became unlawful to discriminate against workers because of religion or philosophical belief, and this was followed up by the Equality Act 2010. The regulations apply to vocational training and all facets of employment – including recruitment, terms and conditions, promotions, transfers, dismissals and training, and they cover both direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation. The regulations protect people of no belief as well as people of religious belief.

Exceptions can only be made if there is a genuine occupational requirement for the worker to be of a particular religion or belief in order to do the job or to comply with the ethos of the organisation. By necessity, some of the indirect discrimination regulations must be adapted to the particular workplace and individuals concerned. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) recommends a pragmatic approach to such issues as religious dress, holidays, diet and prayer times. According to their guidelines, the workplace should adapt to the religious requirements of the employees as long as it does not cause significant extra expense or interfere with the work.

There have been several recent cases of discrimination against religious people in the workplace; In August 2012 Muslim retailer was forced to resign after wearing a headscarf to work. In June 2012 Camden Council backed down from plans to deduct five minutes pay every time Muslims took a prayer break. Four British Christians who claim they lost their jobs as a result of discrimination against their beliefs have their cases to the European Court of Human Rights. Two of them refused their services to same sex couples. The other two, one nurse and a flight attendant defend their right to wear a visible cross which was not part of the uniform.

For futher information, see DOE Norman, "Law and relgion in the workplace: the United Kingdom" in RODRÍGUEZ BLANCO Miguel (ed.), Law and religion in the workplace, Proceedings of the XXVIIth annual conference of the European Consortium for Church and State Research, Alcalá de Henares, 12-15 November 2015, Granada, Comares, December 2016, p. 379-403.

D 17 December 2012    AIngrid Storm

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