Legislation overview

The principal legislation governing discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief is the Equality Act 2010.

The following aspects of the European Human Rights Convention are also relevant and will be relied on by some employees:

  • Article 9 - guarantees freedom of thought, conscience and religion
  • Article 14 - provides that rights and freedoms shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.

These Articles are incorporated into UK law through the Human Rights Act 1998. Article 9 in particular provides protection for the right to express or manifest religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance. However, manifestation by one person of their belief might have an impact on others so this right can be restricted in certain circumstances. Article 14 is not a free-standing right; it can operate only when another Convention right is engaged.

Other legislation which may apply to religious discrimination claims includes:

  • Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006
  • Protection from Harassment Act 1997
  • Employment Rights Act 1996 (especially sections 45 and 101 which protect shop and betting workers who do not wish to work on Sundays)
  • Independent Schools (Employment of Teachers in Schools with a Religious Character) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/2037)
  • The Designation of Schools Having a Religious Character (Independent Schools) (England) (Nos 1-4) Orders 2011.

Q: What is the definition of religion or belief for the purposes of the religious discrimination legislation?

Q: Is an employee protected if they are dismissed for their political views?

Q: What types of discrimination claim based upon the grounds of religion or belief can a claimant make against an employer?

Q: Is there case law guidance on the amount of compensation an employer will have to pay an employee who succeeds in a religious discrimination claim?

Q: Is it religious discrimination for an employer to have a dress code which prohibits clothing often worn by employees of a certain religion?

Q: Is it indirectly discriminatory to refuse an employee permission to take holiday for a religious holiday?

Q: Is it indirectly discriminatory to require an employee to work on a certain day for example Sunday?

Q: Can an employer discipline an employee who tries to convert another employee to their religion?

Q: Can a religious or belief discrimination claim arise if the employer was entirely ignorant of the employee’s belief?

Q: How does an employer decide if an employee’s actions or behaviour are really required by their religion?

Q: How does the comparison work in direct religion or belief discrimination claims?

Q: Can an employer justify discriminating against an employee on the grounds of their religion or belief at all?

Q: Is there scope for conflict between sexual orientation and religious and belief discrimination?

Q: What can an employer do when an employee refuses to undertake certain work duties altogether for religious reasons?

Q: Do different rules apply if an employer is a school with a religious character and wishes to employ a teacher with certain religious beliefs?

Q: Are there any future developments expected in the area of discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief?

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