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.
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Religion or belief discrimination: key points for the workplace from: