Religion and Belief discrimination is illegal in the UK. Religion is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2021.
Employees in the workplace can belong to various religions and have various beliefs. Employers have a duty to support employees regardless of what their religion or belief is.
Employers must ensure that they do not indirectly discriminate against employees on the grounds of their religion. Indirect discrimination could apply if a company dress code policy said that employees were not permitted to have a beard or wear a headscarf, for employers to have these in their dress code policy they must be able to ensure there is a vital business reason, such as a health and safety risk or similar.
Employers must ensure that they have Inclusion and diversity policies in place and make it clear to all employees that the company has a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination and harassment on the grounds of religion or belief.
Ways employers can support employees’ religious beliefs
- Publishing the different religious holidays in a company calendar can be a good way to show diversity in the workplace and also helps to educate employees on when the different religious events are taking place.
- Recognising when special religious holidays take place
- Recognising how many employees may wish to book time off work to celebrate their religious events, and making arrangements to allow employees to be able to have the time off work. Depending on the number of employees who share the same religion, this could be more than the company holiday booking system allows to be off at any one time, employers could look to make an exception to the rule or they could look at allowing employees to change their shift pattern, or make up the hours at another time.
- Some employers recognise that a lot of their employees do not celebrate the UK religious events, and allow them to work during these bank holidays and take the time off at another time.
- Allow employees the time to pray during working hours if they require to. This doesn’t need to be expensive or have a designated prayer room, allowing employees access to a quiet area/room/space is sufficient.
- Ensure that any work events are inclusive to all employees, if alcoholic drinks are to be provided, it is vital that employers provide non-alcoholic drinks also. Labelling of any food provided is also recommended as some religions have strict or specific dietary requirements.