Discrimination at work on grounds of religion and belief

What is the law that governs discrimination on grounds of a person’s religion or belief in the workplace?

The law relating to discrimination in the workplace on grounds of a person’s religion or belief is contained in the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.  

On 8 April 2010 the Equalities Act 2010 was passed. However, since it was considered necessary to allow time for people and organisations affected by the Equalities Act 2010 to prepare for the new law, only a few provisions of the Act came into force that day. It is currently envisaged that most of the main provisions of the Act will come into force in October 2010, although since there has been a change of government since the Act was passed this is currently not clear. 

When the Equalities Act 2010 does come into force the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 will be revoked in their entirety.

What is the definition of religion and belief?

The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 define “religion” as being any religion including a lack of religion and “belief” as any religious philosophical belief including a lack of belief. Atheists are, therefore, covered by the Regulations.

What acts are prohibited by the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003?

Under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 the following acts are prohibited:

Direct discrimination

Direct discrimination occurs where a person (“A”) discriminates against another person (“B”) and on the grounds of the religion or belief of B or of any other person other than A, A treats B less favourably than he treats or would treat other persons. Discrimination can occur in this manner even if A and B share the same religion or belief.

Indirect discrimination

Indirect discrimination occurs where a person A discriminated against person B and A applies to B a provision, criterion or practice, which he applies or would apply equally to persons not of the same religion or belief, but which puts or would put persons of the same religion or belief as B at a particular disadvantage when compared with other persons, which puts B at that disadvantage, and which A cannot show to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

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For more information on:

  • Discrimination by victimisation
  • Harassment on grounds of religion or belief
  • When do the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 apply?
  • Are all discriminatory acts prohibited?
  • National security
  • The helping of disadvantaged groups
  • Where religion or belief is an occupational requirement
  • The wearing of safety helmets by Sikhs
  • What about acts of other employees?
  • How are the Regulations enforced?