What is religious discrimination in the workplace?
Religious discrimination is when somebody is treated unfairly because of their religious or philosophical beliefs or lack of beliefs. ‘Religion or belief’ is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, which makes discrimination on this basis unlawful.
There is no list of religions that are protected under the law, but to be protected, a religion or belief must be central to the way somebody lives and how they behave.
What are the types of religious discrimination?
There are four types of religious discrimination: direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation.
Direct religious discrimination
This is when somebody is treated in an obviously unfair manner because of their religion or belief. For example, they may not be employed at all, or they may be turned down for a promotion.
Indirect religious discrimination
This is when an employer’s policies or procedures inadvertently discriminate by putting somebody with a certain belief or particular religion at a disadvantage. For example, if an employer suddenly requires everybody to work late shifts, this may discriminate against a person whose religion requires them to pray at sunset.
Under the law, an employer may be justified if indirect discrimination (such as changing shift patterns) is ‘a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’. In other words, they may be justified if what they are asking of the employee is vital for the business.
Violent behaviour, bullying, name calling, threats, excluding someone from events, inappropriate jokes, and gossiping about someone are all examples of harassment.
If an employee is put at any disadvantage or poorly treated because they have raised a grievance about discrimination or have given evidence in support of somebody else’s claim, this is victimisation.