Discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief under the Equality Act 2010

What does the Act prohibit?

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination (whether direct or indirect), harassment and victimisation on the ground of a person’s religion or belief.

What is meant by belief?

Belief means any religious or philosophical belief.

What is direct discrimination?

Direct discrimination occurs where a person treats another person less favourably than he or she treats or would treat others on grounds of their religion or belief.

However, conduct which would on the face of it amount to direct discrimination is permitted if the conduct amounts to a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. For example, it may be an occupational requirement of a certain job that a person be of a certain religion or belief.

What is indirect discrimination?

Indirect discrimination occurs where a provision, criterion or practice, which is applied or would apply equally to persons not of the same religion or belief, puts persons of a particular religion or belief at a disadvantage. Indirect discrimination of Jewish and Muslim staff may arise, for example, if an employer always holds team meetings on a Friday afternoon.

Conduct which can be shown to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim is, however, permitted.

What is harassment?

Harassment occurs where a person is subjected to unwanted conduct related on grounds of their religion or belief which has the purpose or effect of violating their dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for him.

What is victimisation?

Victimisation occurs where a person is subjected to a detriment by reason of the fact that he has (or it is believed that he has or may) carried out one of the following acts:

  • brought or given evidence or information in proceedings brought under the Act;

  • the doing of something for the purposes of or in connection with the Act.

  • made an allegation that a person has contravened the Act.

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For more information on:

  • Does the Act protect atheists?
  • In what circumstances does the Act apply?
  • Employment
  • Other situations
  • How is the Act enforced?