Guidance on religion or belief discrimination: key points for the workplace

ACAS has published a new guide which primarily offers employers, managers, HR professionals, employees, employee/trade union representatives and job applicants a grounding in how to reduce the chance of religion or belief discrimination happening in the workplace, how it might still occur and how it should be dealt with if it does happen.

While employers and employees can be liable for their own acts of discrimination, employers can also be liable for their employees’ acts. This guide encourages employers to make sure their workplaces are ‘inclusive’. For example, so employees feel:

• they belong

• are not disadvantaged or under-valued because they hold a certain religious faith or philosophical belief, and

• their beliefs and/or religious observances are respected.

What is religion or belief discrimination?

The Equality Act 2010 protects employees from discrimination, harassment and victimisation because of religion or belief, one of nine features known in law as protected characteristics and covered by the Act. This characteristic mainly divides
into two areas:

• religion and religious belief, and
• philosophical belief.

The Act does not require any minimum length of continuous employment or any employment for a job applicant, for a discrimination, claim to be made.

Discrimination is unlawful from when a role is advertised and interviewed for, through to the last day of employment and beyond, including any job references.

The Human Rights Act 1998 gives a person the right to hold a religion or belief and change their religion or belief. It also gives them a right to show that belief, but not if that display or expression interferes with public safety, public order, health
or morals, or the rights and freedoms of others.

How religion or belief discrimination can happen

There are four main types of discrimination under the Equality Act 2010:

• Direct discrimination
• Indirect discrimination
• Harassment
• Victimisation.

Employers should be aware that successfully dealing with a discrimination complaint is not always the end of the matter. It is useful to think how any future instances might be prevented.