Religion in the Workplace
Published 10 April 2017
In the run up to Easter research has been published which suggests that employers are finding it difficult to manage expressions of religion and belief in the workplace.
It found that up to a million people in Britain may have experienced workplace harassment, discrimination or bullying because of their religion or belief.
Researchers spoke to 251 senior HR professionals and managers at companies with more than 50 employees, and questioned nearly one thousand workers.
Some of those who took part in the study said they had been made to feel uneasy or insulted by workmates telling religion related jokes, but did not report it because they did not believe it was serious enough.
One in three workers also said colleagues do not discuss religion or related traditions.
Easter (3) marks the celebration of the most important and oldest festival of the Christian Church, and it is of particular significance to employees who observe the religion.
From 2 December 2003, when the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations came into force, it became unlawful to discriminate against workers because of religion or similar belief.
There are four main types of discrimination: direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation (4).
As with any discrimination claim it is essential that employers handle, investigate and resolve any complaints in a fair and reasonable manner as getting it wrong can prove costly.
If an employee submits a successful discrimination claim, a tribunal can award compensation for injury to feelings as well as financial loss. There is no cap on the limit to compensation that may be awarded in a discrimination claim that is proven (5).
ACAS have produced a guide for employers and employees titled Religion or Belief and the Workplace (4). The booklet is a good practice guide containing advice that should be familiar from existing guidance on avoiding sex, race and disability discrimination.
1. Belief at Work: Faith in the Workplace Study 2017 « ComRes [Internet]. [cited 2017 Apr 10]. Available from: http://www.comresglobal.com/polls/belief-at-work-faith-in-the-workplace-study-2017/
2. What is the Equality Act? | Equality and Human Rights Commission [Internet]. [cited 2017 Apr 10]. Available from: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/equality-act-2010/what-equality-act
3. BBC - Religions - Christianity: Easter [Internet]. [cited 2017 Apr 10]. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/holydays/easter.shtml
4. Religion or belief discrimination | Acas advice and guidance. 2008 Feb 15 [cited 2017 Apr 10]; Available from: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1856
5. Is there a limit on the compensation that can be awarded in a discrimination claim? | FAQs | Tools | XpertHR.co.uk [Internet]. [cited 2017 Apr 10]. Available from: http://www.xperthr.co.uk/faq/is-there-a-limit-on-the-compensation-that-can-be-awarded-in-a-discrimination-claim/69743/