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Dealing positively with religious belief in the workplace
A recent report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission has indicated that employers have specified that they require further assistance and more understanding of the laws on protecting ‘religion whilst at work’. Religion/belief has been a protected characteristic since the introduction of the Equality Act 2010. This characteristic includes any religion and any religious or philosophical belief. It also includes a lack of any such religion or belief. The Equality and Human Rights Commission requested experiences of expressing religious and other beliefs day-to-day and at work.
Worry and confusion
With almost 2,500 responses received, the report shows a disconnection between employers’ and employees’ experiences. The report also reveals that some employers feel there is some confusion, and spend time worrying that their behaviour may be in breach of the Equality Act.
Have you even considered if any of your employees have a particular religious belief, or perhaps lack of this, as this is also covered under the Equality Act?
How can you create a culture in which that your employees can come to you with any concerns if they have a particular religious, or non-religious belief?
- Create a culture of inclusiveness – through inclusion, employees feel that they are appreciated at work.
- A safe, open working environment is crucial – employees will want to feel that they talk to you about their beliefs. This will certainly assist with ensuring clear lines of communication.
- Some employees won’t wish to discuss their beliefs for fear of reprisal, so welcome their input if they do come to talk to you – but don’t press them if they don’t.
- Show respect to your employees and make time to discuss the issue of religious, or non-religious belief if it is brought to your attention. This may fall at the bottom of your ‘to do’ list, but may be an important matter to your employee.
- Concentrate on your employees getting the job done. Don’t allow religion to get in the way of the service you provide.
Make sure you do not discriminate
It may be seen as controversial, but I would imagine that some employers will have the belief (pun not intended) that religion has got nothing to do with the workplace; what relevance has it? But remember we are in living in times where discrimination can occur. Should you treat an employee less favourably because of their beliefs, you could end up with a discrimination claim against you.
Anita Manfredi of Employer Solutions – QCS HR Expert Contributor