The Equality Act 2010 protects employees from discrimination based on their religion or belief.
Religion, or belief, is defined as any religion, such as Christianity, spiritual belief, or a similar type of philosophical belief, such as atheism.
The Equality Act encourages employers to take reasonable steps to develop policies and facilities supportive of workers’ religious beliefs. These areas include holidays for religious festivals, prayer rooms, and washrooms to be used before prayer, undressing or showering with colleagues, food preparation, and religious dress codes.
The law proscribes less favourable treatment due to direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, victimisation, harassment and also the perception that a worker has a religion.
Direct discrimination is unequal treatment on the basis of an employee’s religion. Indirect discrimination is the use of an unnecessary condition that tends to unfavourably affect people with a religious belief.
Victimisation is unfavourable treatment of an employee because he or she has complained of detrimental treatment on the grounds of religion. Discrimination due to perception occurs when an employee is treated unequally because he or she is thought of as religious.
An employer may be legally responsible for the discriminatory behaviour of his or her employees. But there is no legal liability if an employer can show that policies and decisions were taken solely on business grounds and that an effort was made to reduce the actions’ negative affects.