If you feel you are being discriminated against because of your religion or beliefs, it is possible that you are experiencing a breach of the Equality Act 2010. “Religion or belief” is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act, which means they are directly protected from workplace and employment discrimination.
You have certain rights around faith and religion at work. It is really important to know these rights. When you do, it is much easier to see when something is going wrong in your workplace. Then you are able to report it and have it dealt with accordingly. When we know our rights and stand up for them at work, things get better for everyone.
At Aspiring to Include, we want everyone to feel safe and happy at work, regardless of their faith and/or religion. As such, we have created this page about your rights so you can know everything you need.
What Is Meant by a Religion or a Belief?
We probably all know what a religion is. All faiths are covered as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act, including Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and so on. Atheism is also covered as the lack of any religion cannot be discriminated against either.
The definition of belief is a little more tricky. Equality Human Rights help with their criteria for a belief, which states that for a belief to be protected it must:
- Be genuinely held
- Be a belief and not just an opinion or viewpoint based on current information
- Concern a weight or substantial aspect of human life
- Attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness and importance
- Be worthy of respect and human dignity
Some beliefs that aren’t protected are those such as Holocaust denial and racial superiority. Those that are can include pacifism, veganism, and climate change.
How Does the Law Protect Faith and Religion?
The law protects you against multiple forms of faith and religious discrimination. This protection applies to all faiths and religions, the lack of any religion, i.e. atheism, and beliefs under the criteria described above.
It also applies to discrimination by association and discrimination by perception. This means that you cannot be discriminated against because of the religion of someone associated with you, and you cannot be discriminated against because you are perceived to be of a certain belief or religion.
Equality law and human rights protect faith and beliefs from:
- Direct discrimination
- Indirect discrimination
The main theme of each of these types of discrimination is unfavourable treatment. You cannot be treated unfavourably in any way because of faith, religion or beliefs.
Examples of Religious Discrimination at Work
A clear example of direct discrimination at work is something like advertising a job for applicants of one religion or belief only. However, there are many other ways in which an employer might behave unfairly towards their employees or potential employees.
Suppose that you are a Muslim woman who wears a hijab. Your interview is successful but your future workplace’s policies and procedures require all women staff members to wear their hair in a particular style as a company dress code. You have the right to express objections to that policy. If your employer does not accommodate your opinion, it would be considered indirect discrimination on the grounds of religion.
Victimisation occurs when you are treated poorly because you have spoken up about a violation of the Equality Act. For example, if you think that certain beliefs are being demeaned in the workplace, speak up about it, and then are treated unfavourably at work, this is victimisation.
Harassment could be anything from the destruction of a prayer place in the workspace to unsavoury comments about your belief or religion.
All of these examples are illegal discrimination and should be treated as such. They are a violation of your human rights and should be dealt with legally.
How Can I Make a Formal Complaint at Work?
If your employer is treating you unfairly at work because of your religious or philosophical beliefs, there are a few steps that you can take before taking legal action. These include verbally requesting them to stop, whistleblowing to a higher department of your workplace or consulting your trade union, if you are signed up to one.
If none of these strategies is successful, you should consider getting advice from reputable organisations, such as Citizens Advice. They will direct you on how to make a claim to an employment tribunal.
For further advice, you can visit our support and resources hub where you will find a list of worthwhile organisations and charities that may be able to assist with a discrimination case.
Ultimately, if you are working somewhere you feel disrespected and unsafe, you may also be considering a change of job. If so, you probably are looking for an inclusive, safe and accessible employer. At Aspiring to Include, we help you connect with such exact employers and jobs.
If you want to find a diversity-positive employer, you can take a look at our directory of company profiles, right here. You can then take a look at our Diverse job board with tonnes of inclusive and equal opportunities all across the U.K.
Everyone deserves to work somewhere they can be respected and accepted for who they are. With Aspiring to Include, you can find the right job and the right employer that will provide this for you. So why not start your search today?