The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published new guidance to help employers and employees deal with the expression of religion or belief in the workplace, and therefore avoid conflict and costly court cases.
This guidance has been issued with the hope that it will help clarify an area of law that is extremely complex.
It follows the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgment in four cases about religious rights in the workplace, one of which found that an employee suffered a breach of her right to religious freedom for being told that she was not allowed to wear a cross at work.
However, the fact that this judgment could be overturned on appeal and it could take time for domestic courts to re-interpret existing domestic law has the potential to cause confusion for employers on how to deal with employees who wish to express their beliefs at work.
The Commission has therefore produced straightforward, expert guidance to clarify the law and how employers can use it to manage and protect religion and belief rights in the workplace.
It has been revealed that it includes good practice advice for employers, including how to tell if a religion or belief is genuine, the kinds of religion and belief requests employers will need to consider and how to deal with them.
Mark Hammond, CEO of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:
“The right of people to express their religious belief is a vital freedom, guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.
“However, following these cases there is a lot of scope for confusion on this issue. A lot of the confusion and confrontation on this issue can be avoided if we can work together to come up with common sense approaches to managing beliefs in the workplace.
“Our guidance provides clarification and practical advice to employers and employees to help them avoid costly and divisive legal action.”
“In addition to publishing this guidance, the Commission is also working with the Government to bring together people from different faiths, from secular and humanist groups and employers to develop ideas for how these issues can be resolved.”