The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has produced a guide of good practice for employers. The guide aims to help employers understand how to comply with the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Eweida and ors v UK (2013) when recognising and managing the expression of religion or belief in the workplace. The Eweida case dominated the media in January as Ms Eweida’s complaint was upheld. She had temporarily been prevented from wearing a cross in her job with British Airways due to a dress code. You can find our article on the case here.
The Equality Act 2010 provides protection to individuals (whether they are employees, workers, agency workers, apprentices, consultants, job applicants, etc) against being subjected to less favourable treatment, directly or indirectly, as a result of their religious or philosophical beliefs. Religious belief, as the guide recognises, is more easily defined but philosophical belief is not. Case law has shown that the Tribunals will interpret this quite widely. Please see our article What is a philosophical belief? . This can also include political beliefs as shown in the recent case of Redfearn v UK (2012).
The guide (which you can access here) is quite practical and provides examples of the requests employers are likely to receive from employees. For example an employee could ask to wear particular clothing at work or for time off for religious practice. Employers are not obliged to grant every request, but do need to consider any request seriously and respond reasonably. If they do not do so, then it is possible for claims to be brought by employees. Such claims do not require an employee to have any qualifying service with an employer and there is no statutory limit on compensation for successful claims, so the guide is well worth a read.
Do you have a question or issue that concerns religious or philosophical belief discrimination? Please call us on 01243 836840 for a no obligation chat or email us at [email protected].
Please note that this update is not intended to be exhaustive or be a substitute for legal advice. The application of the law in this area will often depend upon the specific facts and you are advised to seek specific advice on any given scenario.