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Religion and Belief

What the law says

The Equality Act 2010 protects people from discrimination or victimisation on the grounds of religion or belief (including lack of belief) in employment, higher education, the provision of services, goods and facilities, and the provision of recreational or training facilities.

The Act also protects people from harassment on the grounds of religion or belief (including lack of belief) in employment, Higher Education and the provision of recreational or training facilities, however this protection does not extend to the provision of goods, facilities and services.

Religion or belief includes any religion and any religious or philosophical belief and also includes a lack of any such religion or belief. Religions do not need to be mainstream or well-known to be protected under the Act, however they must be identifiable and have a clear structure and belief system.

A belief does not need to include faith or worship of a god or gods, but in order to be protected under the Act it must fulfil the following criteria:

  • it must be genuinely held
  • It must be a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint, based on the presentstate of information available
  • it must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour
  • it must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance
  • it must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, compatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others

Examples of such beliefs may include Humanism, Atheism and Pacifism.

What does the Act cover in relation to employment?

The Act provides protection against discrimination, victimisation and harassment on the grounds of religion or belief throughout the whole employment relationship, including:

  • recruitment and selection
  • terms of employment
  • benefits provided during employment and on termination
  • promotion opportunities
  • access to training
  • dismissal (including redundancy)
  • retirement
  • harassment
  • post termination discrimination and harassment

What does the Act cover in relation to Higher Education?

The Act makes it unlawful for the governing body of a HEI to discriminate against or victimise a person/student because of religion or belief in the following ways:

  • in the arrangements it makes for deciding who is offered admission as a student

  • in the terms on which it offers to admit the person as a student

  • by not admitting the person as a student

  • in the way it provides education for the student

  • in the way it affords the student access to a benefit, facility or service

  • by not providing education for the student

  • by not affording the student access to a benefit, facility or service

  • by excluding the student

  • by subjecting the student to any other detriment

What does the Act cover in relation to the provision of services, goods and facilities?

HEIs provide a range of services to both staff and students, such as childcare services, libraries and careers and employment services, and as such are considered to be service providers.

The Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against or victimise a person who is seeking access to or is accessing a service:

  • in the terms of providing the service

  • by terminating the provision of the service

  • by subjecting the service user to any other detriment

What does the Act cover in relation to the provision of recreational or training facilities?

The Act provides protection against discrimination, harassment and victimisation on the grounds of religion or belief in the provision of recreational or training facilities, such as sports services or clubs. Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) should not discriminate against or victimise a person in:

  • the arrangements it makes for deciding who is provided with the facilities

  • the terms on which it offers to provide the facilities to the person

  • not accepting the person’s application for provision of the facilities

In addition to this HEIs should not harass a person who is seeking to access or accessing recreational or training facilities. 

What types of discrimination does the Act refer to?

Direct Discrimination

Treating people less favourably than others because of their religion or belief or because of their lack of religion or belief.

Associative Discrimination

Treating people less favourably than others because they are associated with someone who holds (or does not hold) a particular religion or belief.

Perceptive Discrimination

Treating people less favourably than others because they are perceived to hold (or not to hold) a particular religion or belief.

Indirect Discrimination

Applying a provision, criterion or practice which disadvantages people of a particular religion or belief (or people without a religion or belief) and which cannot be shown as a proportionate means (i.e. necessary and there is no alternative means available) of achieving a legitimate aim (e.g. a real business need)

Harassment

Unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, i.e. religion or belief (or lack of belief), that has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.

The Act also protects against third party harassment on the grounds of religion or belief (including lack of belief). The University will therefore be liable for harassment of its employees by third parties, such as external contractors, unless they have taken reasonable steps to prevent it from happening. However, this liability will only apply if the University knows that the employee has been harassed on at least two previous occasions.

Victimisation

Treating a person less favourably than others because the person has:

  • brought proceedings under the Act;

  • given evidence or information in connection with proceedings under the Act

  • done any other thing for the purposes of or in connection with this Act

  • made an allegation (whether or not express) that there has been a breach of the Act

Protection is not afforded where the person gives false evidence or information or makes an allegation or has given evidence or information in bad faith.

The Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 came into force on October 1st 2007. The Act, which amended the Public Order Act 1986 introduces a new criminal offence of stirring up racial hatred against a person on racial or religious grounds. If found guilty of the offence, the punishment can include a fine or a prison sentence of up to seven years.

Policies

Religion and Belief Code of Practice

Guidelines for Staff

Summary and Checklist for Religion and Belief Code of Practice

 Useful Links

The Equality Challenge Unit has a range of guidelines on religion and belief

An ACAS guide for employers and employees on Religion and Belief in the Workplace

Dates of religious events can be found in multi-faith calendar

Listings of places of worship can be found in Local Life Religion in Birmingham

Chaplaincy

The University's Multi-Faith Centre offers pastoral support for students and staff of all faiths and none and supports students in times of difficulty/crisis.  The new Martin Luther-King Multi-Faith Centre offers a space to pause, reflect, pray or discuss issues of faith.  It also provides information about places of worship, a space for faith societies to meet and holds social events for all students.

Contact 0121 204 4276 or chaplaincy@aston.ac.uk

Martin Luther King Multi Faith Centre https://www1.aston.ac.uk/current-students/health-wellbeing/chaplaincy/

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Last Updated on July 2012