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Managing Religion and Belief at Work

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has called on employers to take a common sense approach when it comes to managing religion and belief in the workplace.

A recently published review of religion and belief law has found that the legislation is generally effective but a lack of understanding of the law has led to misinterpretation and confusion. The Commission has therefore published new guidance on the matter to help employers manage issues that arise in the workplace.

“Our review finds that the law works well,” explained David Isaac, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. “There are a lot of myths that have arisen due to misunderstanding of legal requirements.”

“Employers actions shouldn’t be governed by a fear of causing offence,” he added. “Our guidance will help managers and businesses reach decisions and approach sensitive discussions in the right way.”

The types of questions most commonly asked by employers include:

  • Can I arrange an office Christmas party?
  • Do I have to allow employees time off to pray in the workplace during work hours?
  • Do I have to agree to an employee’s request not to work on Sundays, for religious reasons, when our business is open seven days a week?
  • Does the workplace canteen need to cater for the food requirements of employees with various religions or beliefs?
  • Can I insist that an employee removes a religious symbol or type of religious dress if it breaches our health and safety policy?

“If employers and employees take practical steps to understand the diversity of religions and beliefs and prevent discrimination in workplaces, then their organisations can reap the many business benefits from tapping into the knowledge and skills of staff from a wide range of backgrounds,” commented Jill Coyne, Acas Senior Guidance Adviser.

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