Religion in the workplace: discrimination on the increase

With religious discrimination hitting the news, employers need to know the law and they need to know how to deal with situations, if they arise

In the year to April 2008, 600 cases of workplace discrimination on religious grounds were tackled in the courts, an increase of 20 per cent over the previous year. Research shows that the increase in tribunals is caused by confusion among employers. For example, two-thirds of employers admit to uncertainty about the faith days celebrated by staff and only one in three organisations have an explicit policy on religion and belief issues.

With the rise in tribunals, religion and belief issues are coming under increasing scrutiny, so the guide explores whether religion should be brought into the workplace.  It also provides a brief overview of the law and discusses the business case for taking account of religion as well as the range of issues policies should cover, such as prayer time and Holy Days or festivals.

Jo Causon, director of marketing and corporate affairs at the Chartered Management Institute said: “There have been several well publicised incidents recently which have brought issues of belief in the workplace to greater prominence. Employers need to know the law and work within it, but they also need to manage relationships to ensure organisations and their employees can thrive.” She went on to say that it is unacceptable to discriminate on the basis of religion, belief or any other form of discrimination.

The guide provides a number of best practice principles to help organisations develop explicit policy and understand the issues surrounding religion and belief. These include:

•      update company policies and procedures to avoid discrimination against staff with particular beliefs

•      consider the impacts of policy alterations on employees who hold different or no beliefs

•      make sure that you, as a manager, know the law

•      communicate new and established policies to all employees through effective channels and create feedback channels. 

‘Religion and Belief in the Workplace’ can be downloaded from www.managers.org.uk/beliefguide

Photo: Nick Smith

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