Religious discrimination

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Health Assured team

22 September 2021

As an employer, you must protect your staff from all forms of discrimination. This includes religious or belief discrimination.

Workforces are beginning to diversify. They now bring together people from a broad range of religions, beliefs, and cultures. This makes it even more important to consider religious discrimination in the workplace.

The guide below will look at what religious discrimination is and offer tips for stopping it from occurring in the workplace.

What is religion or belief discrimination?

Religious or belief discrimination means treating someone differently because of their religious beliefs. Everyone is entitled to freedom of religion. Treating someone differently because of a religion they follow is unlawful.

Religion is one of the nine protected characteristics in the Equality Act (2010). The Act protects people from different types of discrimination. The protected characteristics included in the Equality Act are:

  • Age.
  • Disability.
  • Gender reassignment.
  • Marriage and civil partnership.
  • Pregnancy and maternity.
  • Race.
  • Religion and belief.
  • Sex.
  • Sexual orientation.

Employers must take steps to stop all types of discrimination from occurring in the workplace.

The Equality Act (2010) states that you must not be discriminated against because:

  • You are (or aren’t) of a particular religion.
  • You hold (or don’t hold) a particular philosophical belief.
  • Someone believes you are of a particular religion.
  • You are connected to someone who holds (or doesn’t hold) a particular religion or belief.

What counts as a religion or philosophical belief?

There are many different religions and philosophical beliefs. They include organised religions such as Christianity or Judaism. They also include smaller religions like Rastafarianism. And philosophical beliefs such as ethical veganism, spiritualism, and political philosophies, such as socialism.

You’re even protected by the Equality Act if you don’t follow any religion. The Act defines a religion or philosophical belief as more than an opinion. It must be:

  • Held genuinely.
  • A valued aspect of human behaviour.
  • Compatible with human rights and democratic society.
  • Of a level of importance or seriousness.

Types of religious discrimination

There are four types of religious discrimination. They include:

  • Direct religious discrimination: When a person is treated less favourably because of their religion in comparison with another.
  • Indirect religious discrimination: When a workplace rule adversely impacts a particular group of a different religion.
  • Religious harassment: Uninvited conduct relating to someone else’s religion. The conduct may violate a person’s dignity or create a fearful environment.
  • Religious victimisation: Treating someone differently because they have complained about, or are believed to have complained about, religious discrimination.

Religious discrimination examples

  • A Muslim worker goes for a promotion at work. They have good experience and would be a good fit for the job. The hiring manager decides not to hire the Muslim worker. They think that the worker's religious views might clash with other members of the team.
  • A Jewish employee has started a new job. Other colleagues were welcoming until they found out that the employee was Jewish. Since then, staff members have avoided the Jewish worker, and some have made rude remarks. The new employee feels isolated and fears coming into work.
  • A business decides they need to make some redundancies. The manager in charge makes the Christian worker redundant because their religious views don't fit in with others in the organisation.

Religious discrimination in the workplace

As an employer, you must protect your staff from discrimination against religion.

Employers are responsible for acts of discrimination in the workplace, even if they are unaware that it is happening.

Complaints about religious discrimination could lead to employment tribunals and costly fines.

You must take all grievances about religious discrimination seriously. Investigate any claims and take action to stop religious discrimination in the workplace.

How to overcome religious discrimination in the workplace

Religion or belief discrimination of any kind is illegal. Make sure you are taking steps to stop it from occurring.
As an employer, it’s your responsibility to protect your staff. Here are some steps to overcome religious discrimination in the workplace.

1. Whistleblowing helpline

Employees might feel scared to raise concerns about discrimination at work. A whistleblowing helpline provides employees with a confidential reporting service. This way, they can raise concerns in confidence.

The helpline will be in touch to provide more information after any calls. Then you can deal with the matter as needed. This can be a great way to tackle discrimination in the workplace. It also supports employees to speak up when discrimination occurs, instead of suffering through it.

2. Hire a diverse workforce

Legally you must always hire the most suitable candidate for the job. But that doesn’t mean you can’t actively recruit a diverse workforce.

Employing people from all kinds of religions, backgrounds, ages, and sexual orientations can lead to a more accepting culture in the workplace. Further benefits include increased creativity, performance, and productivity.

3. Inform employees of your zero-tolerance approach

Make your employees aware of your zero-tolerance approach to religious discrimination. Educate staff on the different types of discrimination and encourage them to speak up if they believe it might be occurring at work.

Make sure you’re regularly reminding employees that discrimination of any kind is not tolerated.

4. Be aware of unconscious biases

Unconscious biases work outside of our awareness and affect decisions unknowingly. Make sure you’re aware of this when handling work procedures like hiring, redundancies, and promotions.

Educate decision-makers and line managers on the implications these biases can have and encourage them to consider this in the future.

Support your staff with Health Assured

Health Assured can support staff who are facing discrimination issues in the workplace. Our confidential whistleblowing support allows your employees to confidently raise claims and feel supported throughout.

Our Helpline is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year; with multi-lingual support and fully trained counsellors ready to help.

Want to find out more? Book a free consultation with one of our wellbeing consultants. Call 0844 891 0354 for help with all forms of discrimination.

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