· News

A million people have experienced faith discrimination

Research uncovered a mismatch between HR manager and employee perceptions of religious discrimination

One million people in the UK have experienced religion- or belief-related discrimination, according to research from the ComRes Faith Research Centre.

The survey of 251 HR managers, managers and senior HR decision-makers, and 984 British workers, found that 3% of employees had experienced discrimination because of their religion. Based on 2015 workforce statistics this equals one million people.

Additionally, one in 25 (4%) workers said they had been aware that somebody else was being discriminated against because of their faith.

Despite this, 88% of HR professionals were confident they could respond effectively if someone said they were experiencing issues based on faith. This was higher than the number that felt confident with gender reassignment matters (67%) or sexual orientation (87%).

HR managers who would not be confident were most likely to say this was because their organisation does not have a policy or procedure they could follow (42%), and a third (33%) said they'd not had adequate training.

Katie Harrison, director of the ComRes Faith Research Centre, said there seems to be a mismatch between HR manager and employee perceptions of religious discrimination.

“Many HR managers say they make provision for employees to pray at work and observe holy days and religious festivals, but workers say that’s not happening,” she said.

She described a good test of an organisation’s attitude towards faith: “do people always say what they did at the weekend, or do they leave out the part about pursuing a religious- or belief-related activity because they feel uncomfortable to say so?” she said.

“We heard of people feeling upset that religion was the butt of jokes in a workplace where people have become much more aware about making disparaging comments about gender or disability. We know that good conversations, tailored workplace research and thoughtful listening can help identify some of these problems and solve them quickly.”