Tuesday, May 22, 2018

ACAS: Religion or belief discrimination: ten myths



Myth:  I can’t be accused of discriminating against someone with the same religion as me.
Fact:   If you treat someone unfairly because of their religion it would be discrimination, whether or not you were the same faith.
Myth:  A philosophical belief is simply what I believe in, so my beliefs are protected.
Fact:   What qualifies as a philosophical belief is not always clear cut. There are guidelines, but they are only guidelines. And the final decision whether someone’s beliefs amount to a ‘belief’ in their individual case will rest with an employment tribunal or court.
Myth:  Employees are only really protected against religion discrimination when they are devout in their faith or work in religion.
Fact:   No, they are protected against unfair treatment whether they are devout or not. And, for example, because their friend holds a particular religion or they are thought to follow that religion, even when they don’t.
Myth:  Away from work, I can say what I want regarding my religion or belief on social media – it’s my profile and my page.
Fact:   An employer has a right to ensure an employee’s personal views are not mistaken for its own. It should have a policy on social media including use away from work.
Myth:  As long as a manager is canny in their questioning in the interview, they can still get away with finding out a job applicant’s religion if they want to.
Fact:   Even a question such as ‘Which school did you attend?’ is likely to be seen as discriminatory if fishing for the candidate’s religion and the question is irrelevant.
Myth:  A request for leave for a religious festival takes precedence over a request for a family holiday.
Fact:   No, religious observance does not necessarily override any other good reason for leave.
Myth:  An employer’s dress code must be strictly followed, otherwise there’s no point.
Fact:   A strict dress code would have to be for very good business reasons to satisfy an employment tribunal. Better to take into consideration that some employees may wish to dress in a certain way because of their religion or belief.
Myth:  An employee can refuse to do aspects of their job because of their religion or belief.
Fact:   Not if there are good business reasons why they are part of the job, such as being essential duties, and the employer’s decision is proportionate.
Myth:  An employee doesn’t have to follow a rule like having a photo ID pass, if having their photo taken is against their religion or belief.
Fact:   Employees should understand that their employer has a right to expect certain things to happen for good business reasons, such as having a photo ID pass for security reasons.
Myth:  A colleague can’t in any circumstances lecture me about their religion or belief.
Fact:   They can’t force their views on you when you don’t want to hear them. However, if you bait them you are less likely to be able to claim harassment.
Want to learn more about these areas? Download the free Acas guide
Religion or belief discrimination: key points for the workplace from:

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