A Guide to Religious and Belief Discrimination

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A Guide to Religious and Belief Discrimination
We are not currently offering Employment advice services. The following is for informational purposes only.

Under the Equality Act 2010, employees are protected from religious and belief discrimination. However, discrimination is unfortunately still commonplace in the workplace. Discrimination can take many forms, ranging from being refused an interview because of your religious belief or being humiliated by your peers for your beliefs. Understanding what religious and belief discrimination is can help you understand what steps to take and how to make a claim.

What is Religious and Belief Discrimination?

Workplace discrimination can have damaging impact on the lives of many. As a result, many employees may feel they have no choice other than to leave their job. According to a recent survey, more than a third (36%) of 2,000 polled UK adults reported that they have experienced workplace discrimination.

Religion or belief is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. Therefore, it is unlawful for any employers or colleagues to discriminate against a fellow employee because of faith, religion, or other sincerely held philosophical beliefs. Examples of sincerely held philosophical beliefs include:

  • Atheism
  • Veganism /vegetarianism
  • Vaccination preferences
  • Spiritualism

What is Considered a Belief?

The Equality Act 2010 recognises religions and beliefs as a something that must be protected. This not only includes religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Sikhism but also beliefs such as veganism, Marxism, Creationism or being Wiccan. If you are unsure if your religion or belief is protected by the Equality Act 2010, our employment solicitors can advise you.

For your religion or belief to be protected by law from discrimination it must:

  • Be genuinely held.
  • Be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.
  • Attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion, and importance.
  • Be worthy of respect in democratic society, compatible with human dignity, and not conflict with fundamental rights of others.

Is Veganism a Protected Belief?

In a recent employment law case, the tribunal ruled that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief that is protected by law against discrimination. The judgement was made on the 3 January 2020. The following reasons for accepting veganism as a philosophical belief were:

  • The definition of the protected belief is based on the Vegan Society definition. This gives a wide protection and makes clear that it’s not only a limited subset of ethical vegans that are protected.
  • A person may be protected even if they don’t strictly follow an ethical vegan lifestyle. Therefore, someone who consumes a non-vegan product may still be protected if they still uphold their vegan belief.
  • The protected belief is one that promotes the benefits of ethical veganism. Encouraging others to follow a vegan lifestyle is a core aspect of the belief and is also protected.

What Steps to Take for Religious and Belief Discrimination?

If you are being discriminated against, our team of employment solicitors can help with your claim, making sure you get the result you desire. It’s important to get in contact as soon as possible. This is because you only have three months minus one day from the date of the last discriminatory act towards you to begin a complaint at an employment tribunal.

You will need to notify the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS). ACAS will then approach your employer to establish whether they will agree to early conciliation. This can take up to a month. If ACAS and your employer cannot agree to early conciliation, our team of employment solicitors can help you make a discrimination claim.

If you are facing discrimination, harassment, or unfair dismissal, our team can help.

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