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Religion and Your Employment Rights

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 5 Jan 2015 | comments*Discuss
Religion religious Discrimination

In the United Kingdom employees are protected from discrimination due to their religion or beliefs by two major pieces of legislation that define many types of discrimination. This legislation does not differentiate between intentional discrimination and unintentional discrimination, it is only concerned with what happened and whether or not it was discriminatory. Unfortunately, religious discrimination does still occur in the UK but there is much that everyone can due to fight this injustice.

Religion and the Law

The Race Relations Act 1976 protects individuals from being discriminated against in employment on the grounds of colour, race, nationality, religious beliefs or ethnicity. The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 forbids discrimination in employment or vocational training due to religion or belief. Though there is no particular list of religions or beliefs that are included in UK legislation, most major world religions and minority belief systems are recognised implicitly. If there is a question about what constitutes a religion or belief, an Employment Tribunal will be able to make a ruling.

Types of Religious Discrimination

According to the law there are four types of discrimination, including religious discrimination. These types of discrimination do not need to be intentional as the law rules only on whether or not discrimination took place and is not concerned with whether it was intentional or not. Direct discrimination is deliberate and obvious, for example if a number of employees of a given religion are dismissed simply due to their beliefs. Indirect discrimination occurs when practices or policies disadvantage individuals of a certain religion or group of religions, such as making working on a particular day of the week (which may be against certain religions' beliefs) necessary for advancement. Harassment occurs when the workplace is allowed to become a hostile environment for members of a certain religion or group of religions, whether through direct threats, methods of intimidation, unwanted advances or even verbal or physical "jokes". Finally, victimisation occurs when someone has complained about discrimination and is then treated less fairly than others, such as being denied overtime or their preferred shifts when it is found out that they have, or are planning, to complain about their treatment.

Challenging Religious Discrimination

Challenging discrimination due to religion can be done in several main ways. To begin with, individuals who feel discriminated against and believe that the discrimination is in breach of the law can take a case to court. Next, individuals (either those directly affected or those who have observed certain practices or policies) can lodge formal complaints to the organisations or individuals involved and let organisations supportive of equal rights know about the incidents. The Equality and Human Rights Commission is one such organisation striving to end discrimination in the United Kingdom. Finally, individuals can challenge discrimination in their everyday lives. Every time an individual reconsiders a stereotype, speaks out against discrimination, ceases to make inappropriate jokes and references, tells others that such jokes and references are unacceptable, and does all that (s)he can to learn from the talents of each individual, regardless of their differences, then discrimination is being fought. Hopefully religious and all other forms of discrimination will soon become a thing of the past, but until then everyone can play a part in helping it to end.Read here for more about religion laws.

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@Nic - it is because it does not seek the support of the authoritiesis and it is run via the the cross-denominational Christian activist group, the Ascension Trust. All pastors are Christians, over the age of 18, and are committed to a local church for at least one year, and must havea reference from their church leader stating that they would be suitable to be a Street Pastor and that they are leading a Christian lifestyle. I don't think it is meant to be discriminatory it is merely an offshoot of the organisation which tries to help in that particular way. There are other volunteer organisations which you may be able to help in similar roles via the DoIt link here. I hope this helps.
AboutEqualOpportunities - 6-Jan-15 @ 12:08 PM
I have a query about discrimination in voluntary work relating to religious belief. I am interested in volunteering to be a 'Street Pastor' and approached the Charity who train andorganise this work. I was sent the role description and application form and in both it specified the applicant must be a member of a church and a Christian. As I am neither I feel I can't apply to be a volunteer, even though I can fulfill all the other criteria and is something I am really interested in doing. Is this discriminatory and how can this organisation exclude non-Christians from this voluntary role?
Nic - 5-Jan-15 @ 12:49 PM
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