Religion and Belief Discrimination

Site updated on February 17, 2020

Until 2003 there were no specific laws covering Religious discrimination but this all changed in December of that year.(This is different in Northern Ireland where the Fair Employment Act covered religious discrimination earlier than this.) This area of law is still different in Northern Ireland.

The Relevant legislation is now the Equality Act 2010.

There should be some element of communal worship involved for a religious belief to qualify for protection under the laws. Genuine philosophical beliefs are now also covered by  legislation.  Cases here have involved issues such as Animal welfare and passionate environmental opinions.

The law is not that clear as to what actually is classed as a “religion”. Obviously mainstream religions will be covered. Not too sure about those who reported that they were Jedi Knights in the last census though – this is unlikely to meet the criteria that it is a “genuine” belief, not frivolous and capable of support in a modern society – a guide from case law.

Issues that may be raised will include dress codes, sunday working, shift patterns, holidays and time off for Friday prayer or religious festivals for example. Your Employer must have regard to health and Safety, so that will come first on the subject of dress codes.

You do not have the right to demand certain days off or to take breaks at particular times. You do however have the right to request these things, and your employer is obliged to give the request serious consideration. If, however, your Employer feels that on business grounds it is not possible to grant your holiday or prayer break, your request can be turned down. If you are not happy with your Employers decision you should consider using the Grievance procedure before going any further. As always take professional advice before acting.

If your Religion is based on a particular Race, for example Jews, it may also be possible to use the Race laws if you feel you are being discriminated against on Religious grounds.

If you are being subject to any unfair treatment at work, banter, harassment or bullying  connected to your Religion or other genuine Philosophical belief , tell your Employer, see your Union Representative or Contact our Advice Line.

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