Religion and belief discrimination


Makbool Javaid, Simons Muirhead and Burton Last Modified  25 November 2015

The Equality Act 2010 provides protection against unlawful direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation for the protected characteristics of 'religion or belief'.

Key points

  • 'Religion' means any religion, or a lack of religion, and 'belief' means any religious or philosophical belief, or a lack of belief.
  • Direct discrimination occurs where a person is treated, or would be treated, less favourably ‘because of’ religion or belief compared with others in like-for-like circumstances.
  • Indirect religion or belief discrimination occurs when a provision, criterion or practice (PCP) puts an employee of one religion or belief at a particular at a disadvantage. An employer may be able to justify the PCP as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
  • An occupational requirement, where the nature or context of the work requires a worker to be of a particular religion or belief, or the employer’s ethos requires workers to hold certain beliefs, can be lawful exceptions to direct and indirect discrimination. 
  • Harassment occurs where unwanted conduct related to religion or belief violates a person’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. 
  • Victimisation occurs where a person is subjected to a detriment because of carrying out a ‘protected act’ (for example, bringing a discrimination claim).
  • Employers are liable for acts of discrimination, harassment and victimisation carried out by their employees ‘in the course of employment’.