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EHRC publishes guidance on employees' religion and belief rights in the workplace

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has today published its guidance on religion and beliefs in the workplace, following recent judgements including last month's human rights case involving Nadia Eweida (pictured).

Eweida is a former British Airways employee who lost her job because of her Christian faith. She won her case alleging discrimination after the European Court of Human Rights ruled the airline had infringed her basic entitlement to freedom of religion when it attempted to ban her from wearing a small crucifix around her neck while on duty.

The judgements affect employers' responsibilities for policies and practices protecting religion or belief rights in the workplace, the rights of employees (including job applicants) and the rights of customers.

The EHRC's good practice guide aims to help employers understand how to comply with the Court's judgement when recognising and managing the expression of religion or belief in the workplace. It specifically addresses the following questions:

  • How will an employer know if a religion or belief is genuine?
  • What kind of religion or belief requests will an employer need to consider?
  • What steps should an employer take to deal with a request?
  • What questions should employers ask to ensure their approach to a religion or belief request is justified?
  • Do employees now have a right to promote their particular religion or belief when at work?
  • Can employees refrain from work duties?

The EHRC has said today that it supports individuals' right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and to conditional protection of the right to express religion or belief.

It said that when considering a religion or belief request by an employee, an employer should assess whether the religion or belief is genuine and also whether accepting or rejecting the request will be lawful under equality and human rights legislation.

The EHRC provides guidance to employers on how to comply with equality and human rights law.

'Religion or Belief in the workplace: a guide for employers following recent European Court of Human Rights judgements' can be downloaded here