Religion and belief in the workplace: new guidance
14 February 2013
In response to recent European Court of Human Rights judgment about religious rights in the workplace, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has this week published good practice guidance for employers on how to comply with the Court’s judgment.
This guidance gives various examples of requests that might be made by employees and what it regards to be an appropriate response. Two such examples are:
- A Muslim job applicant who wishes to have regular time off on a Friday to attend worship at a local mosque. The applicant has been offered a job in a 24/7 care home which requires her to be available for work on Fridays. In this situation, her employer is able to reject this with the offer of occasional time off work on Fridays. This is because it would be difficult to change other employees’ work rotas, and there would be insufficient cover available from the small number of other employees to enable the service to be provided and ensure that every employee receives a fair amount of time off work
- A Christian employee who normally wears a small cross around his neck asks his employer to change its policy prohibiting the wearing of all jewellery. Whilst the policy is to ensure employees present a corporate image to the public, the employer decides to provide an exemption for mutually acceptable forms of jewellery worn by employees for religious reasons so allowing the employee to wear the cross. The employer considers that this will not affect its corporate image and will have no adverse impact on others
The guidance is helpful in providing an overview of good practice. However it should be remembered that the examples given by the Commission are based on its view and have not been tested by the courts. Also, an employer’s response will need to be based on the individual facts of each situation.
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