Consensus Employment Law

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Religion or Belief

It is unlawful to discriminate against workers because of their religion or belief or lack of religion or belief. Employers should ensure they have policies in place which are designed to prevent discrimination in:

  • recruitment and selection
  • determining pay
  • training and development
  • selection for promotion
  • discipline and grievances
  • countering bullying and harassment

Discrimination covers four areas:

  • direct discrimination: treating someone less favourably because of their actual or perceived religion and belief, or because of the religion or belief of someone with whom they associate
  • indirect discrimination: can occur where there is a policy, practice or procedure which applies to all workers, but particularly disadvantages workers who hold a particular religion or belief.
  • harassment: when unwanted conduct related to religion or belief has the purpose or effect of violating an individual's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual
  • victimisation: unfair treatment of an worker who has made or supported a complaint about discrimination because of religion or belief

There is no specific list that sets out what religion or belief discrimination is. The law defines it as any religion, religious or philosophical belief. This includes all major religions, as well as less widely practised ones.

Workers are also protected against discrimination if they do not hold a particular (or any) religion or belief.

Many employers find that being sensitive to the cultural and religious needs of their employees makes good business sense. This can mean making provisions for:

  • •flexible working
  • •religious holidays and time off to observe festivals and ceremonies
  • •prayer rooms with appropriate hygiene facilities
  • •dietary requirements in staff canteens and restaurants
  • •dress requirements.
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