Employment equality (Religion or Belief) regulations 2003

The details and data on this webpage consists of information before the Scottish Specific Duties (2012) came into force, for current information please refer to webpages:

Discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief will be unlawful from 2 December 2003. People will have the right to complain to an Employment Tribunal if they feel they have been discriminated against on these grounds.

The Regulations apply to the employment of staff in areas such as recruitment, terms and conditions, promotions, transfers, dismissals and training. In some circumstances the Regulations cover discrimination which occurs after the working relationship has ended e.g. information contained in references. The Regulations also apply to students in higher education in areas such as admissions, terms, conditions and access to benefits.

What do the Regulations say?

Religion or belief is described as being any religion, religious belief or similar philosophical belief. This does not include any philosophical or political belief unless it is similar to a religious belief.

A religious belief is likely to include;

  • some form of collective worship
  • a clear belief system or
  • a profound belief affecting a way of life or view of the world.

We have been advised that non-belief will also be covered by the Regulations. As with any new legislation, interpretation of definitions and terms will rest on the outcome of tribunal cases so it is difficult to be more specific at this time.

Exceptions may be made in limited circumstances if there is a genuine occupational requirement for the employee to be of a particular religion or belief in order to do the job.

What is meant by discrimination?

Four types of discrimination will be illegal:-

  • Direct discrimination: to treat someone less favourably than others because of their actual or perceived religion or belief,
  • Indirect discrimination: to apply a provision, criterion or practice which disadvantages an individual because of their religion or belief without a good reason,
  • Harassment: to subject someone to harassment on the ground of their religion or belief. Harassment is defined as any unwanted conduct that violates a person’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them,
  • Victimisation: to victimise someone because they have made a complaint or allegation or have given evidence against someone else in relation to a complaint of discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief.

What are my responsibilities?

All University employees and students are governed by the principles of the Equality Statement which is the University’s policy with relevance to this area. The Equality Statement states that:

  • Each individual is responsible for his/her own behaviour and must accept the principle that there is equality of opportunity for all staff and students, in all aspects of university life.
  • Individuals must ensure they do not support unfair behaviour by ignoring what is happening around them and must not incite or collude with unfair or unlawful discrimination. The individuals responsibility is to raise the issue appropriately whilst respecting the wishes of the person concerned and their right to confidentiality.

In addition, any member of the University community (either staff or student) found to be responsible for inciting, perpetrating or colluding with discrimination or harassment will face disciplinary action.

Both the University and individuals can be held liable if a person undertakes legal proceedings on these grounds. This could result in both the University and an individual being ordered to pay compensation.

Where can I get more information?

Further guidance is available through the ACAS website at;

or from the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) at;

or by contacting Human Resources on ext. 3096 or by email at sb104@st-andrews.ac.uk.