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Religion and Belief Code of Practice

In line with the University’s Equal Opportunities Policy Statement this Code of Practice operates on the following principles:

  • The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is absolute, but the right to manifest beliefs is qualified by the need to protect the rights and freedoms of others.
  • Members of any religion or none are treated with equal dignity and fairness.
  • Where possible, appropriate provision is made to meet the cultural and religious needs of all employees.

The Code of Practice aims to ensure equal treatment for everyone, of any religion or none. It is based on the principle that people have the right to their own belief system. However, they have no right to force it on others.

1. Cultural and Religious Dress Requirements

i) Aston University imposes no overall dress code on its employees, students and visitors. The University welcomes the variety of appearance brought by individual styles and choices. In posts where uniforms are standard, such as security or reception, or in circumstances where professional standards of dress are required, these do not preclude adherence to an individual’s cultural or religious standards.

ii) Health and Safety requirements may mean that for certain tasks specific items of clothing such as overalls, protective clothing etc need to be worn. If such clothing produces a conflict with an individual’s religious belief, the issue will be sympathetically considered by the line manager or tutor responsible for the activity, with the aim of finding a satisfactory solution. However, Health, Safety and Security will be paramount.

2. Religious Observance

i) Aston University will make reasonable efforts to provide a suitable space for prayer and ablution if practical. In some cases individual’s requirements will be met by facilities in the neighbourhood. The University will provide information about these through the University web site and the Equal Opportunities Unit.

ii) Aston University undertakes to assess the demand for food that meets religious dietary requirements (e.g vegetarian, kosher, halal) regularly in consultation with the relevant religious groups. It will provide such food in its canteen(s) according to the demand for it.

3. Offensive Actions or Behaviour

Any attempt at coercing others to comply with a particular belief system, for example, through threats, will result in disciplinary action. The University undertakes to remove any offensive literature or graffiti found on its premises which promotes racist behaviour or religious intolerance and will take disciplinary action against those found responsible.

4. Employment Issues

Hours of Work

All staff, regardless of religious belief or non-belief, are required to work in accordance with their contract. There is likely to be some flexibility over how the hours are worked. Line managers should make every attempt to ensure that those whose religion requires them to pray at certain times during the day are free to do so. In addition, reasonable efforts should be made to accommodate requests from those who require, for reasons of religious belief, to have minor adjustments to their working hours eg, an extra hour at midday on Friday, or not to work beyond sunset on Friday or at certain times at weekends.

Leave for Religious Festivals

Holiday arrangements include a day off at Christmas and Good Friday, both of which are Christian religious festivals, together with Easter Monday. In the interests of equality, those practising other religions or beliefs will be able to book three days of their annual leave entitlement on the dates of most significance to them. Depending on the type of post these days should be booked at the beginning of the leave year, the academic year or when timetables are being drawn up for the forthcoming year. Where it is not possible to give accurate dates at the appropriate stage, employees should inform managers at the earliest possible opportunity. Further requests for holiday entitlement to be taken at times of religious significance will be treated sympathetically.

The number of annual leave days overall will remain as in the contract of employment, for all staff, whatever their religious belief. (Note: The main religious dates for each year and dates of University holidays will be accessible through the University’s website.)

Extended Leave

i) If a member of staff requests extended leave at a particular time for the purpose of going on religious pilgrimage, the line manager should attempt to accommodate the request. In most circumstances, taking extended leave will involve taking a combination of annual and unpaid leave. In deciding on the balance between these types of leave employees and managers should consider the following:

  • The amount of outstanding annual leave
  • The point in the leave year at which extended leave is requested
  • Other outstanding leave requests during the current leave year
  • Operational requirements
  • should not be seen as an exhaustive list).
  • Staff with relatives abroad may have particular religious/cultural needs for occasional extended leave for births, weddings, deaths. Line managers should consider such requests sympathetically if reasonable and practical, taking into account the issues noted under (i) Extended Leave.

Implementation and Responsibilities

All line managers are responsible for familiarising themselves with this Code of practice and for following it in matters such as requests for leave. All individual staff are responsible for familiarising themselves with this policy, for informing appropriate staff of their particular requirements, and for making up any time lost as a result of cultural/ religious observance.

Any member of staff who feels that they are not being treated fairly in accordance with this policy should first try to resolve the matter informally by discussion with their line manager. If this fails to resolve the issue they can use the Grievance Procedure.

All students and visitors with whom staff come into contact have a responsibility not to discriminate on the grounds of religion or belief. If staff feel that such discrimination is occurring, and persists after they have pointed it out to the student or visitor and asked them to stop, they should report the matter to their line manager who, acting on behalf of the University, will take appropriate steps to deal with it.

Religious Harassment

Harassment on the grounds of religion contravenes the University’s Prevention of Harassment Policy. Where staff feel that they have been subject to religious harassment they can contact a Harassment Adviser for advice and guidance.

5. Student Issues

Students are expected to make a commitment to the full Academic year of Study.

Leave during Assessment or Examination periods

Students have a responsibility to fulfil the requirements of their course of study in order to achieve the relevant award. Students should complete a Religious Commitments, Examinations and Assessment form at the beginning of the Academic year, stating any religious festivals during which they would be unable to undertake examinations or assessments for religious reasons and return this to the relevant School’s Director of Programmes or the Director of Combined Honours by the date stated on the form. The University’s Examination’s Officer will then be advised of requests affecting formal examinations. In consultation with the appropriate faith leaders, the University will endeavour, to a proportionate and reasonable extent, to make arrangements for students whose faith requires them to miss assessments for reasons of religious observance to take assessments at a different time. Where there is no written notice of the appropriate dates, the University will normally treat the delayed assessment as a referral.

Extended leave

Students are expected to make a commitment to the full Academic Year of Study. However, in exceptional circumstances a student may request extended leave at a particular time for the purpose of going on religious pilgrimage. Such requests should be made in writing to the relevant School’s Director of programmes or the Director of Combined Honours at the earliest opportunity, along with a letter of support from a member of the appropriate faith group. Students will be responsible for making good any missed learning opportunities. If the extended leave involves missing significant periods of study and/or assessments the student may be required to repeat relevant modules and assessments or the whole of the academic year.

Student Identification

All students are required to carry an identification Card with a current photograph to enable officers of the University to verify identity in a range of circumstances including assessments and examinations. Where a student’s photograph does not allow for such verification the University will ask for identification to be confirmed through another well established means such as a signature. This may be the case, for example, where students, for reasons of personal or religious belief, cover their faces in a way which does not allow identification.

Implementation and Responsibilities

All teaching and relevant support staff are responsible for familiarising themselves with this Code of Practice, and for following it in matters such as requests for leave. All individual students are responsible for familiarising themselves with this Code of Practice, for informing appropriate staff of their particular requirements particularly in relation to attendance at assessments and examinations, and for making up any time lost as a result of cultural/religious observance.

Any Student who feels that the University is not treating them fairly in accordance with this Code should first try to resolve the matter informally by discussion with their personal tutor. If this fails to resolve the issue the formal complaints procedure can be used.

Religious Harassment

Harassment on the grounds of religion contravenes the University’s Prevention of Harassment Policy. Where students feel that they have been subject to religious harassment they can contact a Harassment Adviser for advice and guidance

Approved by University Council 6th July 2005.

Last saved: Last updated on 17 August 2005