Religious discrimination in the workplace

Under the Equality Act 2010, religious discrimination in the workplace is illegal. If you have been unfairly treated because of your religion or belief, our friendly solicitors can help you.

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.

Have a question or need some help?

What are examples of religious discrimination in the workplace?

The following are some examples of religious discrimination at work:

  • Making someone redundant because of their religion or belief.
  • Requiring someone to dress in a certain way, such as wear a shorter skirt when this is not acceptable to them.
  • Requiring that someone removes religious symbols from their clothing unless there are justifiable health and safety reasons.
  • Setting working hours that mean someone cannot work because of their religion.
  • Making jokes about someone’s religion but passing it off as ‘friendly banter’.

What are your religious rights at work?

An employer is under no obligation under the law to allow time off for religious holidays or prayers. However, they should be as sympathetic and flexible as possible. Refusing to accommodate somebody’s religious needs when they could reasonably do so could amount to discrimination. For example, if an employee prays at a specific time of the day, their employer could consider changing the times of breaks.

When an employee makes a request on religious grounds, they too are expected to be reasonable and flexible towards the needs of the business. If a large group of employees are likely to request the same time off for a religious festival, for example, then the employer has the right not to grant all requests as this could be detrimental to the business.

When considering requests, an employer must not favour the needs of one religious group over another, as this could give rise to a discrimination claim.

How do you claim for religious discrimination in the workplace?

If you have experienced religious belief discrimination in the workplace, the first step is to talk to your employer or HR department and follow their grievance procedures.

If you do not achieve a satisfactory outcome, the next step is to register your claim with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS). It is essential to act quickly because you have just three months less one day from the date the discrimination took place to register with ACAS.

Our religious discrimination solicitors can support you through your employer’s grievance procedures and the ACAS conciliation process. Where conciliation fails, we can file a claim for you at an employment tribunal.

Have a question or need some help?

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Davisons Law - religious discrimination solicitors

If you think you have suffered religious discrimination in the workplace, please talk to our experienced solicitors as soon as you can. Discrimination is unacceptable, and the law is there to protect you.

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