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Factsheet:

Race, religion and employment

Resource summary

This factsheet was last updated in August 2016.

What are race and religion in an equal opportunity sense?

Race and religion are two separate concepts within the law, but we’ve grouped them together in this factsheet for convenience.

For the purposes of the Equality Act 2010, race includes colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins. According to some case law, caste is also included, and an ongoing consultation may result in the Act being amended to expressly include caste.

The legislation doesn’t give a list of religious and belief groups that are covered under the Act. However, religion includes not having any religion. So, an individual can be discriminated against if they have no religious belief. A religion must have a clear structure and belief system. ‘Belief’ means any religious or philosophical belief, or a lack of such belief. To fall under the Act, a belief must usually satisfy a number of criteria, including that it’s an important aspect of the way in which a person behaves in conducting their life.

Examples from case law in this area confirm that the following religions or beliefs have been covered under the discrimination provisions: Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Sikh, Buddhist, Pagan, Humanist and Atheist beliefs. Other beliefs which have been protected by the Act include: environmental or ‘green’ beliefs in the importance of climate change, animal welfare anti-hunting, spiritualism, and beliefs in the psychic field. Some political beliefs have been found to be protected by the Equality Act. The law ensures that those dismissed for their political affiliations can claim unfair dismissal - even if they’ve not met the requisite qualifying period.

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