Explore the legal position and main issues employers face when dealing with religious discrimination in the workplace.
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.