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6.7 Religion or Belief (including non-belief)

Tips on Avoiding Discrimination under the Equality Act (2010) for Religion or Belief:

  • A job description includes the duty: ‘regular Sunday working’.  In reality, there is only an occasional need to work on a Sunday.  This overstated duty written into the job description puts off Christians who do not wish to work on a Sunday, and so could amount to indirect discrimination unless the requirement can be objectively justified.

  • An interview panel makes an applicant feel humiliated by telling religious jokes = Harassment.

Dress Codes:
When imposing a blanket Dress Code rule may indirectly discriminate against particular staff, as the Human Rights Act protects the right to manifest one's religion or beliefs.

Facial hair example: A School/Unit introduces a ‘no beards’ policy, saying this is for health and safety reasons in a kitchen. The policy has a disproportionate impact on staff whose religious beliefs require them not to be clean shaven. Unless the School/Unit can objectively justify the policy, this will be indirect discrimination because of religion or belief.  

Solution: A better approach might be for the School/Unit to provide staff with ‘beard nets’ to avoid the risk of hair falling into the food.  

Modest dress example: Some religions require their followers to dress in a modest way. A dress code which requires a shirt to be tucked inside trousers or a skirt may conflict with that requirement as it accentuates body shape.  

Solution: Make it acceptable for staff to be allowed to wear shirts over the outside of trousers or over a long skirt. The question to ask is whether any requirement to stick to a dress code which does not allow staff to do this can be objectively justified.  

Wearing jewellery example: An office bans staff from wearing any type of jewellery while at work. This is not for health and safety reasons but because body piercings are not liked. A Sikh worker who wears a Kara bracelet as an integral part of their religion complains about the rule.  

Solution: To avoid a claim of indirect discrimination, the School/Unit considers allowing an exception to this rule, as in these circumstances it may find it difficult to objectively justify the blanket ban.



Human Resources

University of St Andrews
The Old Burgh School

Abbey Walk
St Andrews
KY16 9LB
Scotland, United Kingdom

Tel: +44(0)1334 463096